Archive for 2011

Society of Genealogists Christmas, New Year and Stocktaking Closure Dates

The Society will be closed from 4pm on Saturday 24 December and will re-open at 10am on Wednesday 28 December. The Society will also be closed for New Year, stocktaking and closed week from 4pm on Saturday 31 December 2011 until 10am on Tuesday 10 January 2012


If you are planning a visit to the Society of Genealogists please keep an eye on the website 



christmassleigh1May we take this opportunity to wish all SoG Members and Friends a Very Happy Christmas

and good luck with your family history research in the New Year

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Win a Day with the Society of Genealogists in Start Your Family Tree Week 26 Dec -1 January

Start Your Family Tree Week 26 Dec -1 January

The Society of Genealogists, our Centenary Sponsors findmyPast and our Show Partners Who Do You Think You Are? Live are encouraging everyone to get interested in family history this holiday.


Christmas is a great time to get the family together and climb the family tree. Top Tips,  Kids pedigree charts, Information leaflets and Help & Advice on tracing your family history can be found on the SoG FREE Help and Advice Pages

Win a Day at the Society of Genealogists


Each day from Boxing Day until New Year’s Day,, sponsors of the Society of Genealogists’ Centenary Year will be giving you a helping hand on your journey into your past. Look at their website for the Start Your Family Tree Week daily hints, tips and activities to help you research your family tree. Discover some of the great prizes the Society of Genealogists, findmypast and other partners are offering for family historians throughout the week including a free Day at the Society of Genealogists with our Genealogist Else Churchill.

Make it your New Year’s resolution to carry on researching your family history and encourageyou friends and family to join you on the genealogy adventure – imagine what you can show your family next year.

Take part in FindmyPast’s Family Tree Week competition for a chance to spend a day tracing your family tree with SoG genealogist, Else Churchill, at the Society of Genealogists in London – using the resources of the SoG and getting an expert’s help with your family history. The prize includes return travel by train to London from within the UK and two nights’ accommodation in London for the winner and a guest.

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My Ancestor Settled in the British West Indies

The Society of Genealogists is delighted to announce the publication of My Ancestor Settled in the British West Indies by John Titford, FSG. This book is a comprehensive guide to the location and use of records of British ancestors who moved to the British West Indies, and also Bermuda, British Guiana (Guyana) and British Honduras (Belize). Organized in an easy to use, territory by territory format, John Titford’s book will guide you through the records available, and also warn you of the pitfalls which may lay along the way in researching this fascinating subject. John Titford is a professional genealogist, freelance writer and lecturer and was elected a Fellow of the Society of Genealogists in 2004. My Ancestor Settled in the British West Indies is available from the Society’s bookshop and online at, price £9.99. As ever, members of the Society receive a 10% discount on Society publications.

Book of the Month – December

The Society’s December Book of the Month will make a lovely Christmas present for anyone interested in family and social history, or  indeed anybody with an interest in the history of fashion. How to get the most from Family Pictures by Jayne Shrimpton is a beautifully illustrated guide to dating family photographs, paintings, drawings and silhouettes from the late 18th to mid-20th centuries. Jayne Shrimpton has over 20 years experience in dating and analysing family pictures, so if you’ve been wondering when those mysterious family photographs may possibly date from, this is the book for you. How to get the most from Family Pictures is available with a discount of 20% off the retail price throughout December, and the offer is availabe to Society of Genealogists members in addition to their existing members discount. You can buy our book of the month, along with the full range Society of Genealogists publications, in our bookshop at 14 Charterhouse Buildings, and online at

Offer ends 31/12/11 and does not appy to trade orders.



The British Newspapers Archives is now available online.

Family and local historians have been eagerly awaiting the launch of the British Library Newspaper Archive since we had a short opportunity to test it a few weeks ago.

Now the site is fully functioning and available to all. The British Library in partnership with Brightsolid (the company behind genealogy websites Findmypast and Scotland’s People) have launched the first phase of a ten year project to digitise 40million pages of newspaper. In the first release some 4 million pages have been made available online at the website

About 200 titles have been made available so far. While the current list of newspapers does go into the 20th century they are primarily for the 18th and 19th century, thus providing a wonderful resource for anyone researching before the census years. The project is concentrating on local papers and in the first release it looks like every county has at least one paper represented so the spread is quite good. In addition the Poor Law Gazette; Poor Man’s Guardian and The Odd Fellow have been included. It strikes me that the coverage is better for the rural counties than urban areas. Hull and Liverpool for example had several papers but each only has one included thus far. There is also some overlap with newspapers previously digitised through JISC academic funding, some of which have also been licenced for the BL’s previous 19th century newspaper online project – but that is to be expected and all the papers digitised with JISC will eventually be in this archive.

Local newspapers are fascinating and throw up such amazing stories. You can search by key words not only through the editorial content but in advertisements and illustrations.

I have found some remarkable information for my ancestors in the Hereford Times and Herefordshire Journal. As poor labouring folk they were often found as victims of petty crimes such as theft. My Great Great Grandmother Mary Churchill gave evidence in 1861 against her neighbour tried at the Petty Session for a brutal assault of their son – something that of course you just wouldn’t know just by looking at the families listed side by side in the 1861 census.

My most interesting find has been the reports of the trial, conviction and transportation at the Hereford Summer Assizes of Mary’s Brother–in-law and My Great Great Uncle John Churchill (born 1819). He was tried in 1846 for the attempted murder of Elizabeth Morris at the Turnpike House in St Weonards in Herefordshire. The story is reported in one of the longest court reports I have ever seen. John Churchill Assault 1846 latestThere was damning forensic evidence as the constable reported measuring and matching John’s boots to footprints found at the screen. John’s brothers James and my Great Great Grandfather William (who the judged called the more “respectable brother”) gave witness on John’s behalf and it is reported that William contributed £5 or £6 to his brothers defence saved out meagre wages of 8 shillings a week. The Defence Counsel tried to prove that there had been a past history of trouble between the Churchills and Mrs Morris claiming this was a false accusation against John as she had once cried “I do hate the set of you. I’ll transport some of you if it lies in my power”. However her evidence and identification was quite clear and accepted by the jury and while John was found not guilty of attempted murder he was convicted of the brutal assault (described frequently in the papers as “cutting and maiming”), which left Elizabeth badly injured and unconscious on the ash heap. John Churchill was transported to Tasmania on the Pestonjee Bomanjee in October 1846, gaining his ticket of leave in 1854/5 and dying there in 1883.

The peripheral information about the witnesses in this case, such as the amount they earned and who lodged with whom, is fascinating and brings a generation of my family history vividly to life, and I would never have known about it if it weren’t for the digitisation of the Herefordshire newspapers. The reports proved some theories I had about the family and answered other questions – notably why I had not found John’s burial or death record. John isn’t directly related to me and his crime was very serious indeed. But I can’t help but be delighted to have discovered it.


The digitised newspapers are full of such stories and will open so many avenues of research for family and local history. Searches are free but you have to pay to view the newspaper pages themselves. The fees start from £6.95 for 2 days access and 500 credits (50 pages views). A month’s subscription costs £29.95 for 30 days and 3000 credits. Annual subscription costs £79.95 with unlimited access. Images can be saved in folders to your account or downloaded as PDFs. You can order an A1 scan of a particular page which may well be useful. Old newsprint is fiendishly small and while a printout onto an A4 domestic printer has come out remarkably clearly I do wish I had a larger printer attached to my computer. I must admit to a small hiccup with trying to download an image of an article that crosses onto 2 pages which still needs to be sorted out but the email support response was very quick and we are working on the problem. The text of the newspapers has been captured by Optical Character Recognition (OCR) which captures a transcription of the article on the left of the screen. There is a facility for the public to correct any of the glitches that OCR throws up and as a good collaborative family historian I have edited the text of the article relating to John Churchill and tidied up a few errors so anyone after me who wants to read the entry will at least have all the names and places correctly transcribed and thus findable.

All in all this is a great new adventure in family history and will  enliven all our stories – good hunting.

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