Archive for September, 2010


Did your ancestor work on a lifeboat?

If so there may be a reference to him/her in a new family history resource on the Members’ Area of the Society of Genealogists website.

Lifeboat gallantry Did your ancestor work on a lifeboat?The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) was formed in 1824 and since then over 2,400 gold, silver and (since 1917) bronze medals have been awarded for gallantry in saving lives from shipwrecks. The book “Lifeboat Gallantry” edited by Barry COX and published by Spink in 1998 provides the first complete list of all such medals to be published, together with details of the acts of heroism involved – incredible feats of endurance and seamanship in the face of adversity.

A copy of the book is held in the Society’s library (shelfmark MED/68) and volunteer Frank Hardy has recently produced an index to all 2644 people mentioned in the text. This index has now been made available on the Members’ Area of the Society’s website and a free basic search can be made here.

If a visit to the library is not possible a photocopy can be ordered through the Society’s Search and Copy Service

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Old Passports (Treasures Tuesday 14th September 2010)

Not only was it rare for our ancestors to travel overseas (unless emigrating or part of the forces), it was also not compulsory to travel with a passport until WWI. Click here to find out more about British passports and to see an 1853 example from our Special Collections.

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Index of Catholic nuns 1598-1914

A recent addition to the Society of Genealogists’ Members Area is an index of Catholic nuns covering the period 1598-1914.

In the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547) all religious houses of women and men were closed. There was a small revival under Queen Mary (1553-1558) but at her death the few nuns who wished to remain so went abroad.

In 1598 a congregation of specifically English nuns was established in the Spanish Netherlands (modern Belgium). Many more followed and for nearly two hundred years Catholic nuns lived out their lives in the Catholic countries of Europe. Many of their records have been published by the Catholic Record Society and the relevant volumes contain more detailed histories. All these orders were enclosed and the ladies within them lived lives of prayer.

With the advent of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1792 most of these convents were expelled. Fortunately they were able to return to England where Catholicism was now legal.

Nuns 244x300 Index of Catholic nuns 1598 1914

With the great expansion of Catholic numbers in the United Kingdom, and especially of poor urban Catholics from the 1840s, many new Orders came to England from the continent to do active work – mostly teaching or nursing. By 1900 there were over 90 religious orders of Catholic women working in the UK.

In the early 1990s the Catholic Family History Society circulated all the organisations of Catholic religious women working in England to ask about the records of individuals. A great many lists were received and computerised and this index (which lists over 12,000 individuals from about 60 orders) is the result. The Catholic FHS has no further information about the women listed here.

In many cases religious orders had a centralised structure and an archivist for the whole order was able to supply a copy of a complete list. The Carmelites and the Sisters of Mercy, however, had no such central structure. Lists were received from particular houses but not from others.

Note that England, Wales and Scotland, with which this index is concerned, formed a quite separate province from Ireland. This index contains a great many Irish women but they have all joined the English Province, not the Irish Province, of their Order. The cut off date was entry in 1914 so very few women born after about 1895 will be found here. However a very few orders sent later material with permission to incorporate it.

Further information on individuals may well be available from the Religious Order concerned. The address of the current religious superior will be found in the Catholic Directory. Most orders have archivists and many of those are members of the Catholic Archives Society. Many have published articles describing their holdings in that society’s journalCatholic Archives of which the Society of Genealogists has a complete run.

To search the index go to the Members Area.

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Meet the SoG & our Census Detectives Team at the National Family History Fair in Newcastle

The Society of Genealogists will be exhibiting at the National Family History Fair in Newcastle.

Let our Census Detectives Team help you find your missing ancestor

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The Society is pleased to have a 253 year old document by Admiral Forbes explaining his reasons for not signing the death warrant of Admiral Byng. Click here to view this document and other treasures of the Society.

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