Apr 302016

FWLNeedsYouThere have been a few tough nuts to crack during the A-Z blog and the last of the lot, Z, had a fairly short list of possibilities. Zebra? Zoology? Zulu? None particularly fit with the topic of family history without a significant amount of lateral thinking….!

So, we settled on zealots. Not a commonly used word in the English language but a pertinent one. When used as a noun, it means “a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their religious, political, or other ideals”. Sounds like the team at FWL! We are all enthusiastic about our work to the point of being fanatical at times…. we have to be. We take a case on. We have to crack it. Not just part of it. All of it!

Once our case is admitted (accepted) by the Government Legal Department, FWL and our legal partners have to ensure that we have accounted for all entitled beneficiaries. We cannot leave any stone unturned and sometimes that means we have to dig deep, often spending days/weeks/months on individual lines. Some cases are simple and can be cracked in minutes/hours. Then, we are generally in the mix with several of our competitors because, did you know, we aren’t the only probate and intestacy researchers in the United Kingdom. [I was amused the other day when I corresponded with a researcher in Europe and he quipped that he had to work fast because there was another firm who also worked on the same cases as him…. ONE firm!!!!]

There must be other zealots out there…. we are, once again, looking for more researchers as we have a constant flow of work and need more terriers. Full or part-time, from any location across the globe …. get in touch!

[Source image: IMGFlip]

Apr 302016

The best time to start doing family history is ‘in your youth‘ as there are (hopefully) family members from older generations still around to assist with names, dates, places and more importantly, stories. Tracing your heritage has, historically, been a hobby for retirees and, all too often, the phrase “I wish I had started this when I was younger … then I could have asked X, Y, Z about …” has been heard/said.

Personally, I consider that I started at the right time. As a microbe (see X marks the spot), family history was very much a part of my life. Many schools (in my day) at some stage in the curriculum, encouraged children to research into their past and ask questions of their family members. I have handwritten responses to some questions I asked my aunt for a history project about her experience as an evacuee in WWII. The Day tree was drafted up before I was even old enough to say ‘family history’ by my maternal grandfather. However, my maternal grandmother knew little of her heritage and always said that she was descended from Welsh stock – well, clearly because of her Evans surname! This legend continued as my cousin gave her son a name connecting him to his Welsh heritage!

How I would love to return to my youth when said maternal grandmother was still alive (sadly, lost when I was 13) and tell her that, as far back as my research has taken me (which is well back to the 18th century), she doesn’t have a single connection with Wales, despite having TWO Evans lines. Would she be pleased, or disappointed, I wonder?

The benefit of starting in my youth means that certain family documents have been passed to my mother by those from previous generations. Aunt Win’s photo album and all her stories and memories may never have passed on, if we (Ma FWL and I) hadn’t shown such an interest in the eighties. All the archives from Doris’ flat in Seaford may well have been binned had Ma & Pa FWL not had the dubious pleasure of sorting that out once she had moved into a care home.

Who is the holder of your family archive? Are you able to enthuse the younger generations of your family so that your hard work can be passed on when the time comes? Can you get them started in their youth?

Apr 282016

This was always destined to be one of the more challenging letters of the A-Z blog list. X can always revert to the lazy X…. along the lines of eXtinct, eXhaustive/eXhausted etc. EXhausted would be a very relevant X for today. A required appearance in court in London meant an earlier start than I am used to, by a long chalk…. 4:30am is not a time I am used to seeing on an alarm clock. Ever. [Well, possibly sometime before in my life, but not for a very long time!]

However, for A-Z blogging purposes, X marks the spot. There are many documents which (historically) needed to be signed by our ancestors, from marriage registers to various parish chest documents, and a whole host in between. Tracking back in time, schooling has not always been compulsory and so, not all individuals who were required to sign documents were able to do so. And hence, X marked the spot. Someone – usually a churchwarden, parish clerk, etc. – would write for the illiterate individual and they would put their mark (X). But how would the illiterate one be able to know what they were actually signing?! In some cases, they did not.

Marriage registers are less of a concern as, one would hope, the two parties consented to marry, whether they could physically write their names or not. I often refer to those who appear regularly as witnesses on marriage certificates as ‘professional witnesses’. They are, occasionally, known to be parish clerks and such like…. people of a certain standing within the community. Does X mean that the person whose name was recorded couldn’t write? Frankly, more often than not, yes! Not only could they not write, but they could not have explained how their name was written to a parish clerk, vicar, rector, etc.

Parish chest records are available across the nation in county record offices (use the Discovery Catalogue to find relevant records and their location), as well as baptisms, marriages and burial registers (parish registers). There is so much more to discover than just the birth, marriage and death indexes (and certificates) …. the world is your oyster with regard to documents relating to individuals within a parish.

X marks a number of spots – how many can you find? [Did your ancestor sign the record or put their mark?]

Apr 272016

Modern technology is wonderful. When I first started researching my own family history (when I was a “microbe” – Pa FWL’s parlance for being a youngster, i.e. under ten, I think), records were not available ‘online’. Computer monitors were the size of a small filing cabinet and, even when I was at university, most homes did not have broadband. Heavens, I am so old!

Today, I have spent most of the day sat on my rear end writing – creating material for articles and publications as well as perfecting my Society for One-Place Studies hangout on Using Newspapers to visualise your one-place study and also, this evening’s Legacy Webinar on Rummaging in the Parish Chests. [The step count is surprisingly not as abysmal as I expected!] Ten years ago (even five years ago), the day I have had would not have been possible….. presenting to people around the globe – twice – from the comfort of my own office. No travel time. No travel costs.

Business network meeting at 8am (Chippenham, Wilts). Chased ‘Badger’ (Deputy Chief in Charge of Post) around the estate and eventually located her to collect my train tickets to London tomorrow. Partially normal working day in the office (ish). Google+ Hangout at 3pm (to a worldwide audience – and recorded), meeting in town at 5pm and Legacy webinar at 7pm (to a worldwide audience of over 1,500 registrants – and recorded). Managed to connect two people with the same (reasonably rare) surname in their ancestry (mentioned in the Legacy webinar, twice) and only travelled 24 miles all day.

The technology has developed so fast. There are so many ways to virtually meet people in small and large groups and to fit all budgets – free on Google+ to hundreds of pounds per month for the best in the business.

If you haven’t already, check out the Legacy Webinar Library. So much to learn…. and search around for other online webinars, Hangouts, YouTube videos …. there is so much out there…. What’s not to like?

Apr 262016

“What?” I hear you shout. It’s rather unlikely that the parent taking their child to the Public Vaccinator in the nineteenth century to be vaccinated for smallpox thought that they would be providing information which might help you breakdown a brick wall more than 100 years later. Sadly, the Vaccination Officer’s books do not always survive, but where they do, they may possibly give some clues about that elusive birth record or whereabouts of the family.

Vaccination records are a little used but nevertheless useful resource for family historians. In 1840, legislation was enacted covering England and Wales, requiring all children to be vaccinated against smallpox. Responsibility for enforcing the law was given to the Boards of Guardians of the Poor Law Unions and it is amongst their records that information about vaccination is likely to be found.

When the birth of a child was registered, the Registrar informed the Public Vaccinator (PV), who was employed by the Guardians. The Registrar recorded on the Vaccination Register the details of the child, including gender, date of birth, name of father and the date of birth registration, which was also the date the parent was issued with the notice to have their child vaccinated. Once the child had been vaccinated, a certificate was issued confirming that the vaccination procedure had been performed.

The PV had to report to the Board of Guardians the names of those parents or carers who refused to have their child vaccinated. The Guardians would authorise the prosecution of vaccination defaulters, and the PV would then commence legal proceedings. In 1880, the Government published a list of the names of people prosecuted for failing to have their children vaccinated.(*) This lists, by county, the names of those men and women who were prosecuted and the date of the court decision. It also confirms the penalties imposed, whether fines or even imprisonment for repeated offences. The standard penalty was 10 shillings or 50 pence in modern currency. Bearing in mind that many working men earned only about £1 a week, this was a not insignificant amount.  A name on that list could lead you onto local newspaper reports of the case.

It is known that some parents failed to register the birth of their child, to avoid the attentions of the PV until the law regarding registration was changed, which could be another reason why you can’t find a birth record.

(*) Return of the Vaccination Act 1867, Ordered by The House of Commons, to be printed 18 March 1880.

Author: CiCoNO, FWL

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