Christmas is almost upon us!

baubles

With most of us scratching our heads about what to buy our nearest and dearest I thought I would contribute some ideas for gifts for genealogists.

It doesn’t need to be an expensive item that may go unused, such as a subscription to Ancestry or FindMyPast, although for many this will be very welcome. Other gifts that genealogists would value include:

  • Page magnifier – for trying to decipher that faded, scrawly handwriting on original documents.
  • Subscription to a family history society – many genealogists research various parts of the country and an extra subscription would be a boon, but I suggest you check what they have already. They usually get regular journasl, access to other members’ records, specialist publications relevant to the area and access to a research room (please check as they do vary).
  • Your time – write down all the snippets that are in your head and present them to the family researcher. They will value this, especially if you can also track down any memorabilia too. Could be just what they are looking for to break down those brick walls.
  • Nice notebook for keeping all those odd notes and research – I find an A4 Moleskin is the ultimate but a smaller or cheaper option would be appreciated.
  • Certificate folder or lever arch file – these can be archive quality from one of the many online stores or an ordinary file from a local stationers.
  • Pencils – these have to be used in archives and record offices, rather than pens. Why not buy a ‘nice’ propelling version but make sure it does not have a built-in rubber as these are sometimes not allowed.
  • Finally, check out my online store http://genrooters.co.uk/ for vouchers or packages to suit a range of budgets.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will do my best to help.

 

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Census substitutes in the UK

headcount

In past blogs and press articles I have made no secret of the fact that I love using census records to create a really firm foundation for further research. It is much easier to be confident you have the right family group rather than relying solely on individual civil or parish records.

However, they don’t help with research on what happened in the intervening 10 year gap and are not particularly useful before 1841. However, there are some other records that can help and outlined here is a brief overview of what else to investigate.For more details, various guides, websites and publications as to what has survived and where the records are located can act as a short cut when tracking the relevant records down.

Lay subsidies

These taxation records broadly cover 12th to the 17th centuries.Most of any surviving records are held by TNA (The National Archives) in Kew, London. Local County Record Offices might be worth a visit if you cannot find them in TNA.

Poll tax

This was first introduced in 1377 and the most useful periods are 1377-1381 and then 1641-1697. Once again the surviving records are held by the TNA.

Tudor and Stuart musters

These assessments of able-bodied men who were available for battle, if and when required. The earliest records date from 1522 and end in about 1640, although a handful were taken after this date. The records are held by TNA, local County Record Offices and the British Library.

The Solemn League and Covenant returns

This covers English and Scottish citizens dating between 1638-1648 with the records being available as part of the parish records held by local County Record Offices.

Protestation Oath returns

This dates from 1641 and was taken by all those who were rejecting the Catholic faith and can often be found as part of the parish records or held within the parliamentary archives, who do have an online database called Portcullis.

Hearth tax

This is a simple but easily accessible set of records. It started in 1660 until 1689. They are held as part of the subsidy rolls held by TNA, some may be found in the Quarter Sessions records held by the local County Record Office or there is an online database at www.hearthtax.org.uk

Land tax

This covers the period 1693-1963 but the survival and location of the records varies greatly. The most likely places to look are in Quarter Session records at local County Record Offices and at TNA. Alternatively Ancestry.co.uk offer land tax records for various areas in London from the years 1692 through 1932.

Militia lists

These are particularly useful in the absence of other census-type returns in the 18th and 19th century. The survival rate for these records is generally good and can be found as part of the Quarter Session records at the local County Record Offices.

www.thegenealogist.co.uk holds some records which are available online. For service records of officers and those of other ranks these can be found at TNA and www.findmypast.co.uk.

As I stated at the outset, this is not a full and detailed list but will hopefully help those struggling to find other records in order to work their way back on their research.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The changing face of St Margaret’s in Leicester

I recently came across some research I did on my Wigstons in Leicestershire and thought it might be worth sharing.

‘My’ Wigston was Thomas aged 47, living in Luke Street to the East of St Margaret’s church, as listed in the 1871 census.

First of all I tracked down a contemporary map as close to the 1871 as I could and in the Leicestershire County Record office I found a clear street map of 1874. This showed the location as being on the outskirts of Leicester. I then looked on Google maps to see a comparison but sadly Luke Street had not survived. However by looking at the Google satellite view I could see the area had been modernised and the edge of a building was aligned with what would have been Luke Street. By then looking at Google Street View I could see the area was a real mixture of Victorian and 1930s run down derelict buildings alongside modern buildings.

I then decided to visit the area and it became clear that the new building that had replaced Thomas’ Luke Street was a univeristy building. The blue arrow denotes where Luke Street would have run before being replaced by this buidling.

luke-street

My next step was to visit the Leicestershire Record Office and by tracking Luke Street through the electoral roll I determined that Luke Street disappeared between 1967 and 1984.

My next port of call was online research and it became apparent that between 1835 and 1860 Thomas’ St Margarets became built up and one of the area’s most important factories, Corah’s St Margaret’s works, was built and grew over time. The initial plans devised a scheme for the construction of premises on an immense scale: the main warehouses was 160 feet long and 50 feet wide. The rear was an even larger building, the factory, the dimensions of which were 294 by 80 feet. The 140-foot chimney was attached to the factory. The works were driven by a large steam powered beam engine, which was started for the first time on 13 July 1865.

By 1866, over one thousand people were working at St Margaret’s, and the buildings had been extended twice. Our Thomas Wigston by the 1901 census had moved but stayed within the parish. One can only think he moved because of the approaching industrialised development or was forced out to make room for progress.

Originally, a factory yard stretched north as far as the canal but by 1941 there had been no less than nineteen extensions to the original building taking up all available land.

The economic hardships of the years following the 1st World War took their toll on the Corah operation.  After years of consistent expansion, the company faced their first experience of decline. By 1936, various branch operations in Birmingham, Newcastle, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and London had closed, production being centred on Leicestershire.  Profit margins were reduced and overheads cut.  The firm was managing to survive, but their saviour came in the form of Marks and Spencer.

Into the 1960s, Corah’s employed over 6,000 workers, making it one of the largest factories in the city. But the UK hosiery industry fell into severe difficulties following the recessions of the 1970s and 1980s. It may have been that Luke Street may have been swallowed up by further development in it’s hey day or was sold off to help ride the hard times of the recession. Corah’s and its competitors were faced with changing tastes and foreign competition. It had to borrow to reinvest at the same time as having to keep prices low – and, in the inflationary 1970s – pay their workers more.

Corah lost its last link with the founding family in 1989 and in the same year it was sold to Australian corporate raider Charterhall and was broken up shortly afterwards after Charterhall crashed to a huge loss. By the 1990s the factory had closed.

Armed with this interesting information, I then wanted to see how the development of this factory so close to Luke Street would have had on the area. By googling and digging a bit deeper it appears that there is quite a lot of information about Corah’s available including maps and plans. The Univeristy of Leicester site was useful showing a 1939 diagram of the factory with what would have had Luke Street in the bottom left hand corner. The site also has a 1959 staff handbook showing the inside plan of the factory.

corah-floor-plan

Title
Welcome to Corahs’, Employees’ Handbook, 1959
Created by
N . Corah & Sons Ltd

It does not show Luke Street so my thoughts are that by this time it had been reduced to a minor cut through between the car park and the cycle park.

By checking on Ordnance Survey street level maps for 1953 and 1973, along with the earlier electoral roll details, I deduced that Luke Street was demolished between 1967 and 1973.

Sadly, today the area is derelict and run down but it clearly demonstrates the ebb and flow of urbanisation which has always happened and always will.

Christmas is here, already!

With just 13 weeks to until Christmas I hope my followers will bear with me on this specific post. In genealogy terms 13 weeks is not long for tracking down certificates, ordering them, pouring over them and extracting the information then going on to follow-up the next clue.

Every year there are disappointed people who want to give a genealogy gift for Christmas but are then disappointed that it cannot be produced instantly and completely. After all…that’s how it works on WDYTYA and Long Lost Families, surely?!

If you are thinking of buying a gift then my advice is to check out my online store now…not later, to avoid disappointment. http://genrooters.co.uk/.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.

There we go…plug over, back to business as usual.

 

Preparation for a pilgrimage

For some time I have felt the need to visit Ypres to pay tribute to my Great Grandfather, James Archibald McPhee, who lost his life there in 1917. However in order to get the most out of this trip I needed to carry out some preparatory research.

Some time ago I had visit the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website to find out details of where he is commemorated. This is a free to use site and can provide a wealth of information. Below is the entry for James:

cwgc

I had also visited his regimental museum at Nottingham Castle but hadn’t really gleaned much more.

By using Ancestry I recently searched for more information on James and was amazed to find his military papers online. Sadly, many WWI records did not survive WWII but his did and they gave me lots of information such as his physical build, when he signed up, where he spent his service and his date of death (amongst a host of other information). Curiously, his date of death on a number of records was listed as 31 July-3 August 1917. This pricked my curiosity: did he go AWOL, was it so chaotic that they didn’t know who was alive or dead at any time, was it a drawn-out death or was the record keeping very ‘informal’? Pinning down the exact date was important as that affected exactly where he died.

I then looked on Ancestry for the war diaries and again hit lucky as they were now online. They made really interesting reading as I had not previously grasped the concept that the battalions moved around so much, with a rotation scheme providing rest, reserve operations and front line action. By narrowing down the dates in the diary I could place the likely location of James’ death to Kitchener’s Wood, a dugout between Canopus trench and Venhuelle farm, California Drive or St Julien.

During my research I also tracked down a book written by an officer from the same battalion giving a more detailed and personal account of life during action. The book is “A Short History Of The 16th Battalion The Sherwood Foresters (Chatsworth Rifles)” by R F Truscott. It is out of print now but a kind person responded to a post I made and let me have the relevant entries. This highlighted the unimaginably poor conditions that they were operating within and the sheer misery endured by all. It seems likely from this account that James either died along with 29 other ranks at battalion headquarters in a disused German gun-pit at VanHuelle farm on 2nd August or on the 3rd August when A and C company suffered heavy losses in Canteen trench or the area between Vanhuelle farm, Canteen trench and Canopus trench.

My next stop was to visit the National Archives in Kew who had a range of trench maps at various dates through the campaign. It was very eery to handle the actual maps who, if they could have talked, would tell a tale of misery, hardship, terror, despair and grit of those who had used the maps. The maps were in good order but the ragged edges, stains and various thumb tack marks could only hint at their history.

Fortunately I have tracked down a map for August 1917 showing the area that James died in which I can transpose to a modern map so I now know where my pilgrimage should take me.

jamcphee-trenches

I am planning a visit and it is likely I will hire a local WWI guide rather than using a standard coach trip as it is important to me to walk where he walked as well as visiting his official grave at Tyne Cot.

What I have learnt from this is to check back at Ancestry frequently as this information was not available last time I searched and to not overlook googling terms – that is how I found Truscott’s amazing book detailing the battalion’s activity.

 

 

 

 

 

Not all dust and hushes

County record office Leic

I have previously extolled the virtues of the fantastic resource local County Records Offices are (see blog from last July) and I have a really good example of why you should visit them.

In my case the one I use the most is the Leicestershire & Rutland County Record Office in Wigston Magna. Following my recent article in the Rutland Mercury on Manorial records, Jenny Moran the Senior Archivist, kindly contacted me with an update on where we are with getting the Leicestershire records included in the Manorial Documents Register. The Record Office is part of the National Archives programme and so the Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland records will be included in due course. This is great news for this generally underused resource which can provide reach seams of information for family historians.

Jenny also confirmed that early next year they hope their parish registers, wills and electoral rolls will be available online through a partnership with Find My Past which will be of great benefit to genealogists the world over!

They are holding an open day on Saturday 24th September 10-3.30. This will be on a World War One theme and includes a costumed re-enactment of the entire Somme campaign.

What I think this highlights is that the record offices are not static, dusty and mysterious places of secrets but they are run by very knowledgeable people who are pro-active, helpful and bring history alive. If you have never been before the open day might be a good place to make a start! As I  mentioned before…if we do not use the miles of amazing resources on their shelves and the knowledge the archivists have in their heads there is a danger that in the future we won’t have access to this invaluable service at all – how sad would that be?

About the record office

Video tour

Map to record office

Other gems from the Parish Chest

Since Pope Innocent III Parishes have kept a Parish Chest, coffer ark or hutch in which to secure Parish Registers along with any other important church records and documents.For the genealogist of today, these can provide a really useful insight into characters in the Parish along with clues as to what ancestors were up to.

Rates

Each Parish had to raise rates to pay for the repair and upkeep of the church, highways and byways plus charitable support for the poor and education.How much was due by each parishioner was generally determined by the value of their property. Rate books or lists of ratepayers generally contained a list of the householders or house owners, an assessment of the value of the property and the rate that was therefore due. This could not only place certain ancestors in a Parish at a given time but also give an indication of their relative wealth within the community.

Poor records

From the 16th century the Parish supported the poor, funded by charitable donations and the rates. Any records that survive can show who contributed to the poor fund (indicating they were comfortably off) and those in receipt of it.

Settlement and removal

Settlement and removal records dealt with the poor who had not originated from the parish. From 1662-1834 the parish Justices of the Peace would interrogate the poor who entered the parish within 40 days and had no means of supporting themselves to determine their last place of settlement with a view to returning them to that parish (or a neighbouring parish to pass on the responsibility to another parish closer to their home parish) and thereby only providing poor relief to those who really belonged in the parish. This does not necessarily mean that people could not move from their parish of birth, they could gain a settlement certificate under various circumstances such as a woman marrying a man in that parish. The parish records contain the ‘examination’ of the person, removal or settlement details and other supporting evidence which is useful for genealogists.

Workhouse records

From the late 19th century Parishes were encouraged to build a workhouse within each union of the Parish. A number of records survive in the Parish chest such as admission and discharge registers.

Bastardy bonds

With many women finding themselves pregnant out of wedlock and the potential burden this could make on the parish coffers great efforts were made to determine who the father was and ensure that they paid towards the raising of the child. The woman would undergo a bastardy examination which could be quite detailed and explicit as the justices of the peace tried to identify the father. A commitment to pay was laid out in a bond. Failure to pay by the identified father would be taken very seriously and they could find themselves in gaol.

Apprentices

Apprenticeships were originally maintained by the guilds for all skilled trades but by 1562 the statue of apprentices was enforced to ensure that a uniform 7 years should be served as a condition of the right to practice any manual trade.  This was rigidly enforced well into the 18 century. Registers were kept which included the apprentice’s name, the father’s name (and sometimes their occupation and residence), the name of the master or mistress, the parish they were from, trades and birthdate.

By contrast pauper children were put into apprenticeships in different circumstances: they were forcibly apprenticed against the will of the child and the family and got paid less and it often lasted longer than the 7 years. Some children were apprenticed from the age of 7 as agricultural labour or domestic servants to parishioners by the overseer of the poor. These indentures were recorded and usually kept in the parish chests.


Records of the above, plus some other information such as general admin records, can be found in the Parish Chest. Today any surviving records of this type are generally held by the local County Record Office or Diocesan archive. Well worth a visit to see what you can find!