Archive for July, 2011


When did the Society of Genealogists’ neighbourhood become cool and trendy?

banner1 When did the Society of Genealogists’ neighbourhood become cool and trendy?

 

I’ve just stepped out for a bite to eat on a quiet Saturday at the Society of Genealogists. The library is busy and there is a workshop on in the lecture room but it’s a quiet day generally as there  is little of the normal weekday traffic buzzing around our corner of London’s EC1M where Goswell Road meets Clerkenwell Road and Old Street.sog frontweb thumb When did the Society of Genealogists’ neighbourhood become cool and trendy? Since the closure of the Family Record Centre I’ve not walked about our neighbourhood so much recently but it doesn’t take much to notice that there has been a significant gentrification of the area. The building works next door to the Society have finally finished and the new William Harvey Heart Centre next door to us at the end of the Charterhouse Buildings cul-de-sac was formally opened on July 7th 2011.  The Heart Centre is part of the new Queen Mary Charterhouse Square Campus in collaboration with Barts Hospital and The London NHS Trust.Opposite the Society’s front door , on what used to be the last bomb site in London, stands a modern block of apartments, very expensive office furniture shops and a veterinary practice.

Turn left at the end of the Charterhouse Buildings cul-de-sac you come to historic Clerkenwell now with new restaurants including the very highly acclaimed Modern Pantry and the exclusive Zetter Hotel and Townhouse on the corner of St John’s Square. Over the road  is the fascinating St John’s Gate; the the historic home of the Order of St John and a landmark in Clerkenwell since 1504, which has been picked by Londoners to represent Islington on a commemorative badge for the 2012 Olympics.  The church of St James Clerkenwell still provides a quiet oasis of calm to sit and eat a sandwich on a sunny lunch time but the trendy set still head for the pubs and bars of Clerkenwell Green and Farringdon during the week.

Today’s weekend engineering works on the Metropolitan and Hammersmith & Circle lines closed Barbican underground station, so a stroll up Old Street to Old Street tube station past the  newly renovated church of St Lukes’ Old Street means you can see how the new LSO St Luke’s concert and rehearsal centre have added vibrancy to this part of town.  Turn off Old Street down Whitecross Street and you’ll come to some of the best street food and restaurants in London. Usually the street food vendors serve exotic  but incredibly tasty and cheap cuisine to the lunch time office workers and residents from the nearby Peabody Trust Estate (wonderfully interesting flats built in London clay brick) but the restaurants stay open at weekends too. This weekend the street food vendors, local shops and artists held a  food and rather avant-gard music arts festival as part of the open London free weekend events leading up to the Olympic cultural celebrations.  The food smells were divine and I wish I hadn’t had lunch before I walked down the street. WhitecrossStreet thumb When did the Society of Genealogists’ neighbourhood become cool and trendy? I did resist the temptation of the most wonderful meringues and pastries. I loved the jazz and Whitecross2 thumb When did the Society of Genealogists’ neighbourhood become cool and trendy?local community choir but couldn’t quite work out the art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WhitecrossStreetportrait thumb When did the Society of Genealogists’ neighbourhood become cool and trendy?

Turn right at the bottom of White Cross Street past Fortune Street Park and you’ll come out at the Barbican Tube station opposite the Barbican Arts Centre and Exhibition Halls. All of this culture is available within 30 minutes round walk from the Society of Genealogists. A very pleasant way to get some air and stretch your legs before hitting the SoG books shelves and manuscripts. I like working on a  Saturday.

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Society of Genealogists’ Summer Membership Offer

 

Rain on St Swithin’s Day forebodes a dreadful summer of 40 days of rain. So what are  family historians to do if you can’t be distracted from your genealogy by trips beach or forays into the garden? Well you could  just get on with your genealogical research and how better to do that than join the Society of Genealogists in its Centenary Year?

 

The Society of Genealogists’  Summer Membership Special Offer waives the joining administration fee of  £10 until 30 September 2011. This means your first year’s membership is only £45 (or £27 for overseas members). Join the Society  of Genealogists today and your discounted membership will be valid until October 2012. IN ADDITION the Society’s Summer membership Offer includes free  Family Tree Builder genealogy software (while stocks last).SoGBuildingPhotoGMcover2010web thumb Society of Genealogists Summer Membership Offer

 

Benefits of membership including FREE access to the SoG Library,  FREE data online, FREE Genealogists Magazine, FREE access to genealogy websites in the SoG Library and discounted books and courses are outlined on the Society of Genealogists website .

 

Download the application form today and quote SSP11 to take advantage of the Summer Special Membership Offer.

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We’re now tantalisingly close to discovering who Lord Alan Sugar will choose to be his next business partner, with the final of The Apprentice hitting our screens on Sunday. The Society of Genealogists also got the business bug as we’ve just published the Business Index Collection in association with the Findmypast.

The Society of Genealogists Business Index Collection is also available to SoG members via MySoG on the Society’s website www.sog.org.uk

 

The record collection is made up of a selection of 17 books and trade dictionaries produced in different areas of the UK from 1893 – 1927, with 9,757 records showcasing businesses and prominent people of the late Victorian era and early twentieth century. You can find out more detailed information about the Business Index Collection.

The records are a superb family history resources. They can provide a lot of detail about your ancestors’ lives, often including a photograph and a short biography which will detail their education and experience, memberships of corporations and clubs, their hobbies or leisure activities as well as any charities they may have been involved with.

Else Churchill, Genealogical Officer at the Society of Genealogists, explains:

“The Business Index directories complement other family history sources such as censuses or birth, marriage and death records. While these records may merely state trade or occupation, the Business Index can include exactly what your ancestor did and often include potted histories of the family business, showing when it was founded and the generations of the family members who worked together. These stories put flesh on the bones of our ancestors. Society of Genealogists volunteers have been working hard to make these rare directories from its extensive library collections more readily available for the genealogists and we are delighted to be able to publish this first set of data.” 

Women in Business

We’ve had a hunt through the Business Index Collection and have found a number of successful women included, particularly around the early 1900s. This is fairly surprising considering the historical context of the records. It was not until 1928 that women were granted the right to vote on the same terms as men and the universities of Oxford and Cambridge had only opened their degrees to women some eight years earlier.

The successful businesswomen featured in the records include:

 

Helena Normanton – The first woman to practise as a barrister in the UK when she was called to the Bar of England and Wales in 1922.BusinessIndex NotablePersonalities1927 305Normanton HELENAalone thumb New Society of Genealogists Family History Collection   Business Index published on line

 

 

Irene Barclay – The first woman in Britain to qualify as a chartered surveyor. Barclay helped to set up a number of housing associations around the country, improving living conditions for many people. 

Dame Lilian Braithwaite – Celebrated actress who appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Downhill and Noel Coward’s play The Vortex.

Marion Lyon – The Advertisement Manager of Punch magazine and the only woman to hold a position of this nature in the early twentieth century.

Radclyffe Hall – Author of The Well of Loneliness, a novel about a lesbian relationship published in 1928. The book was declared obscene and was withdrawn from sale.

BusinessIndex NotablePersonalities1927 195Hall RADCLYFFE thumb1 New Society of Genealogists Family History Collection   Business Index published on line

 

 

Lilian Baylis – Manager of the Old Vic and Sadler’s Wells theatres. Baylis also ran an opera company that later became the English National Opera, a theatre company that became the Royal National Theatre and a ballet company that became the Royal Ballet.

Debra Chatfield, findmypast.co.uk’s Marketing Manager, comments:

“The Business Index Collection shows us that while our female ancestors were fighting for the right to vote and to go to university, countless women were already business leaders. This is all the more amazing when you consider that today, fewer than 14% of FTSE 100 board positions are held by women.”

Search the Business Index Collection now to see if any of your ancestors are included!

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London Canal Museum visit and Regent’s Canal walk 27th July 2011

Many a time I have walked along the Regent’s Canal towpath with my young grandson
and had to restrain him from that inviting narrow slope down into the water!  No,
it is not a way into the water but a way out for horses that had inadvertently fallen
off the tow path.  That was just one of the snippets of history that our Guide, Roger
Squires, imparted during our two hour walk. Roger is a volunteer with the Canal Museum and
obviously has canals in his blood: there wasn’t a single question he could not answer.

 A Report on our  Historic Camden Towpath Walk & Visit to the London Canal Museum 27 July

Islington canal tunnel and tranquility just behind King's Cross station


There are about 12 locks between the start of the canal in Limehouse, on the Thames, and Camden,
rising 96 feet.  Then the canal continues on the level for over 20 miles to where it joins the
Grand Union canal in Middlesex.  Construction started in 1815 and the intervening years have seen
many changes of use and fortune.  The early railways deprived it of much income but at the same
time brought in other freight such as coal.  Just behind St Pancras station lie the remains of the
steel structures that supported the railway lines bringing coal from the Midland coalfields, below
which lay the canal barges waiting to receive their load from the bottom discharge hoppers of the coal trucks.  The noise must have been horrendous.  Then the barges distributed  the coal right across London, east to west.  Adjacent is the St Pancras gas works site and if you fancy an apartment with a difference, the plan is to build them within the frame of the giant gas holders!   But there in the middle of this industrial dereliction was a Heron, happily perched on a canal barge.

During the war, the canal traffic increased considerably again because of the shortage of road haulage
and the Canal Company started to make profits again.  The war also brought problems!   Kings Cross Station  lies below the canal level and it was realised that a well placed bomb breaching the canal would allow huge quantities of water to escape flooding the station.  So, at intervals along the canal, ‘stop’ gates were fitted which were closed every night and the remains of those gates are still visible; if you know where to look as Roger clearly did.

Camden lock and lock keepers cottage now a Starbucks 300x225 A Report on our  Historic Camden Towpath Walk & Visit to the London Canal Museum 27 July

Camden lock and lock keeper's cottage now a Starbucks

 

Ice was a major commodity on the canal and there are several ice pits, one of which is located in the Canal Museum.  The largest ice well in London is right next to the Holiday Inn hotel in the middle of Camden.  It was constructed in 1839 and was still in use up to 1913.  It is no less than 100 feet deep, 40 feet in diameter and held 2000 tons of ice.  ‘Is’ because it is still there, capped below the surface and preserved thanks to English Heritage.  Warehouses lined the canal and, just like the dockland warehouses, many have been converted to residential accommodation but perhaps the most spectacular ‘conversion’ is Camden market.  Until as late as the 1950′s, this area was covered with timber but is now covered with this thriving sprawling market, a cosmopolitan riot of colour, smells, languages and nationalities.  It has become a tourist attraction in its own right and my younger overseas visitors always make a bee line for it.

Battlebridge Basin home of the Canal Museum and …. a heron 300x225 A Report on our  Historic Camden Towpath Walk & Visit to the London Canal Museum 27 July

Battlebridge Basin, home of the Canal Museum and …. a heron

For most of the canal’s life, horses were used to tow the barges and it was not until after WW2 that a few tractors were employed.   Anyone who walks the Regent Canal may well have noticed the gouges in the stonework supporting the bridges.  I always blamed drunken cyclists but in fact they represent nearly 200 years of wear, created by the horse’s tow ropes as they laboured many yards ahead of the barge.

Water has always been a problem for the Regent’s Canal and until the two Companies merged in the 1920′s, the Grand Union canal jealously guarded the water that escaped when the connecting locks were opened.  Water conservation is also one of the reasons for the twin lock system on the Regents canal so that as water in one lock was lowered half of it could be discharged into the adjacent lock to raise boats travelling in the opposite direction.  There was also an extensive pumping system to return water back to the top of the canal from the lower reaches in Limehouse.  At least one of those pumping stations has survived, albeit one now serving as a lock keepers cottage.  Most people will be familiar with the traditional canal lock gates and their wedge shape to hold back the water whilst allowing the gates to be easily (?) opened when needed.  Contrary to popular perceptions, they were not invented by early canal engineers but by Leonardo da Vinci; but then what didn’t he invent?

Whilst the canal has not changed in 200 years, the roads above it have and our guided pointed out the many changes of bridge construction such as widening or strengthening to carry trams.  Perhaps the most bizarre was the new bridges that had been built near St Pancras that had been disguised by ‘planting’ on each side the girders from the old bridge as a facade.  They served no useful purpose other than to maintain the historic appearance of the area. It was also good to see at various locations along the canal that some original foundation stones for the bridges had been preserved nearby, recording the various dignitaries at the time (genealogy at last!)

A cormorant in the middle of Camden 199x300 A Report on our  Historic Camden Towpath Walk & Visit to the London Canal Museum 27 July

A cormorant in the middle of Camden

Perhaps the biggest surprise was to see a cormorant sitting on top of an egg in the middle of Camden. Egg?  Well that’s another piece of history, albeit modern.  One of the ‘converted’ canal side buildings was the original TV-AM television studios and they erected these huge egg cups all around their roof. TV-AM went long ago but the egg cups remain and now provide a handy perch for any passing cormorant.  At least it proves there are fish in the canal and those rows fishermen along the tow path are not wasting their time.

 

Genealogy at last 300x225 A Report on our  Historic Camden Towpath Walk & Visit to the London Canal Museum 27 July

Genealogy at last!

After St Pancras the canal disappears into a 960 yard tunnel -  but that is a different story and a
different tour that the Canal Museum offer – but by boat!

 

 

Barry Hepburn (group leader)

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Family Tree Maker Software for Beginner & Advanced Users: 30 June 2012

10:30am-1pm - Family Tree Maker Software for Beginners
This workshop will cover the foundation essentials needed to understand the program and is suitable for beginners. The separate afternoon advanced course runs from 2-5pm. It is preferable that those taking the advanced afternoon course, also take Mike’s morning course  (those that are familiar with the basics, can take this as a refresher).

Taught by Mike Bollinger, each course costs  £17.50/£14.00 (SoG members) and must be pre-booked and pre-paid. Visit our online shop or telephone 020 7553 3290. Have a question? email events department.

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