Jul 202014

I will be running an online version of my course ‘Discovering Your Ancestors’ Communities in the Early 20th Century’, starting on Tuesday 16th September 2014 8.00pm (British Summer Time). This will be a 5 session course, delivered fortnightly via Google+. Participants are likely to have already made some progress with their One-Place Study and be familiar with Google+, although I am happy to practice with the technology before accepting payment. The cost of the course will be £20 with a £5 reduction for members of the Society for One-Place Studies. There are only 8 places on the first online presentation of this course so please book early. The course will primarily take examples from sources that relate to UK research but the ideas, techniques and projects suggested will be transferable to places elsewhere. For further details please contact me.

Janet Few

Buckland Brewer from Frithelstock

Buckland Brewer from Frithelstock

Jul 182014

For a one-place studier, visiting your place is always an exciting time. This is especially true if you are undertaking a one-place study without having actually been there in person before! This month the Society for One-Place Studies’ HangoutOnAir will focus on visiting your place – we’ll share plenty of tips for planning your visit, what to do when you are there, strategies for first-time visits and repeat visits, and plenty of anecdotes from our own experiences. Whether the journey is to your ancestor’s home or just the place you fell in love with and chose to study, we’re sure you’ll find it an emotional experience.

Hangouts are available for all to watch either at the time or after the event in our YouTube archives. If you’d like to be “in the room” on the day chatting with us about your experiences visiting your place, make sure you’ve joined our community on Google+ then indicate Yes to the event in Google+ and add a comment to let us know you’re keen to participate.

Alex Coles

Jul 142014

Newspapers had been around for quite some time prior to the third quarter of the 19th century, but decreasing costs, improvements in printing technology, speedy distribution via rail and increasing literacy mean that access to news in printed form became much more widespread after 1850.

In the UK, events like the establishment of the Reuters news agency in London in 1851 followed by the Press Association in 1868 show that this quarter was a significant one in the development of news delivery. All duties (advertisement, stamp, paper) affecting newspapers ceased by 1861, reducing costs and triggering increases in the range, availability and affordability of newspaper titles. Newspaper circulation tripled from the 1830s to the 1850s!

The Bucks Herald reports on the impact of rail schedules on newspaper deliveries in Great Berkhampstead 1871

The Bucks Herald reports on the impact of rail schedules on newspaper deliveries in Great Berkhampstead 1871

The chance of finding surviving local newspapers, that wonderful trove of social history, gets better and better the later you go. Newspapers have generally been fairly well preserved in national libraries, local archives and the like so you are bound to find something of interest for your one-place study in their collections. Most online newspaper archives are an ongoing project, so do check back from time to time particularly if the newspapers for your place’s region aren’t currently available.

A brief meander through some issues of the Bucks Herald published in this particular quarter century, looking for entries related to my one-place study of Wing, revealed an inquest and subsequent court case regarding a murdered child, another inquest on a mistreated child, an accidental shooting during a snowball fight (with my ancestor’s brother being a snowballing participant), stolen lambs, a post-beverage assault (let’s be honest, there was more than one of those!), cattle fencing prizes, farm sales, reports on concerts and other forms of entertainment, and a highway robbery most notable (in my OPSer opinion at least) for revealing the nickname of one resident to be “old Crutchey”.

Some key online newspaper archives around the world for you to explore:

UK – British Newspaper Archive is digitising the collection of the British Library and covers England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland from 1710 to 1960. The slightly newer website Welsh Newspapers Online is undertaking a similar exercise for the holdings of The National Library of Wales which includes both Cymraeg and English newspapers for 1804 to 1919, and is free to access. Irish Newspaper Archives has Irish newspapers from 1738 right up to today.

US – the pay site NewspaperArchive.com has US newspapers from 1607, Canadian newspapers from 1872, and even a selection of newspapers from a smattering of other overseas countries. There are plenty of other (free!) archives to look at as well, including the Library of Congress’ collection.

Canada – Canadian newspapers can be found in NewspaperArchive.com mentioned above, but also be sure to check out this list of online Canadian newspaper archives.

Australia – Trove has Australian papers for 1803 to 1954, all freely available to search and download, along with the facility to improve the OCR for articles you are viewing.

NZ – Papers Past from the National Library of New Zealand has a collection of NZ papers from 1839 to 1945, again all freely available to search and download.

A final tip – check with your local library as your library membership may entitle you to access newspaper subscription sites like The Times Digital Archive for free and from home.

Alex Coles

Jul 102014

The first of a series of posts about one-place studies in the nineteenth century

What can I say about the early nineteenth century? I thought I would try to pick a source that covers this period for some of the countries represented by our members’ studies.

Canada Land Petitions of Upper Canada date from 1763-1865 and are searchable by place.


Australia There are a number of Australian musters for the first quarter of the nineteenth century and many are available in print. So do people from your place appear in the General Muster and Land Stock Muster of New South Wales, 1822? Or maybe they feature in the musters of New South Wales and Norfolk Island of 1800-2 or 1805-6?

England and Wales For England and Wales I am choosing the land tax records. For the purposes of One-Place Studies, these are useful between 1780 and 1832. The annual returns record taxable land, normally holdings of an acre or more, with the name of the property, the owner, the occupier and value. Most returns are to be found in County Record Offices, filed with the Quarter Sessions records. There are copies of the 1798 returns for England and Wales in Class IR23 at The National Archives. From 1798, it was possible to ‘commute’ the tax by paying fifteen times the annual rate, in order to be exonerated from any future liability. This means that, from this date, the returns become less complete. For a county by county list of the whereabouts of surviving records see Gibson, Jeremy; Medlycott, Mervyn and Mills, Dennis Land and Window Tax Assessments (2nd edition Federation of Family History Societies 1998).

Scotland Did you know that the records of the tax on apprenticeship premiums, that date from 1710-1811 cover Scotland as well? The originals are in the National Archives at Kew but the records can be searched on Ancestry.

Ireland Census returns – and you may think there aren’t any, or at least there aren’t any for this date span. According to Irish genealogy: a record finder edited by Donald Begley (Heraldic Artist Ltd 1987) several fragments of Irish censuses or census like documents survive. For example, lists of Protestant parishioners in 1802-3 for 28 parishes in Counties Meath, Westmeath, Offaly and Cavan. A few volumes of the national 1821 census, including names, survive for Meath, Fermanagh, Galway, Offaly and Cavan.

The Netherlands 1811 is a key date in Dutch family and local historical research as it was then that Napoleon required surnames to be registered and this replace the previous system of personal patronymics. Dr T G Fahy suggested (Genealogists’ Magazine vol. xiii no. 12) that these names may give clues to geographical origins. Those ending in ‘ink’ being from the east, those from Brabant ending in ‘donk’ and those from Frisia ending in ‘ma’ or ‘ga’.

 Janet Few




Jul 022014

Our June Hangout-on–Air discussed marriage and marriage records in our places. Marriage records may be one of the first that one-place researchers lovingly craft into a database but they also open up the opportunity for a number of research projects. We considered customs and legislation that might govern marriage at different points in time. Did you know that, in England and Wales, girls of 12 and boys of 14 could legally marry until as late as 1929? Who could marry in your place? Marriages between certain people are prohibited by law in particular cultures. Other marriages were legal but frowned upon by social convention. How acceptable was it to marry someone of a different religious or ethnic background, or someone from another social class? What about marriage venues; could you map their locations for your place? Consider the full range of religious and civil locations.

Wedding Bells Blog Image 1

Then there are records that are evidence of a marriage but are not actually generated by the act of marriage itself. In some places death certificates or the birth certificates of children give details of marriage. Census returns at least give indications of who, theoretically, was married to whom and some give suggestions of when the marriage took place. Spouses are frequently mentioned in wills and marriages or wedding anniversaries may be reported in local newspapers.

Various mini projects were suggested. Don’t be daunted by what could be a great deal of work, particularly for a larger ‘place’. You can choose to develop some, all, or none of the options and there is no time frame. Could you investigate marriage horizons for the inhabitants of your place, how far did people travel in order to marry in your place? Did this change as transport links improved? How many of those who married in your place could sign their name in the marriage register? What times of year were most popular for marriages in your place? What about the likelihood of inter-class marriages. In this context W A Armstrong’s correlations between occupations and class were mentioned. Details can be found in Armstrong, W A ‘The Use of Information About Occupation’ in Wrigley, E A (ed.) Nineteenth-century Society: essays on the use of quantitative methods for the study of social data (Cambridge University Press 1972) pp. 215-223. The tables were reprinted in Drake, Michael and Finnegan, Ruth Sources and Methods for Family and Community History: a handbook (Cambridge University Press 1994).

We also discussed what might be included in a marriage database. Date, place and the names of the bride and groom are standard but many records provide data that can be put into other fields. Do you record marriage witnesses? Do you note if the parties were able to sign their name? What about adding information from other records to your marriage database. For example, there may be no abode, occupation, date of birth or parents’ names in the marriage record itself but you may know these from other sources and the information might be added. This would help distinguish one John Smith from another. If you do this you need to make it clear what is taken from the actual record itself and what is a result of you interpreting that data.

If you missed the Hangout-on-Air why not take a look now and enjoy working with the marriage records for your place?

Wedding Bells Blog Image 2

Wedding Bells Blog Image 3

Janet Few