The Society of Genealogists is delighted to commemorate its 100th anniversary celebrations with a special franked set of genealogical commemorative stamps issued by Isle of Man Stamps and Coins. From Births to Deaths the special collectors’ edition of genealogy stamps encapsulate the key events of life. Franked with the Society’s 1911-2011 Centenary Logo and embossed with the Society’s strap line in gold lettering, the Isle of Man Post Office Cover issue of 8 stamps charts the milestones of human life through the use of public records held in Manx National Heritage’s brand new ‘i Museum,’ which is dedicated to family history on the Isle of Man and elsewhere. The Society is grateful to Colin Chapman FSG and Lochin publishing for sponsoring the production of the Society of Genealogists’ commemorative issue of these stamps. Sets of the genealogy commemorative stamps available from the Society’s shop at £4.99.
This stamp issue celebrates the resources available for the many people interested in uncovering more about their Manx ancestry. Stamp content in this series was inspired loosely by the seven stages of life (from birth to death). At this Manx National Heritage facility attached to the Manx Museum complex on Kingswood Grove, Douglas, researchers can search for and obtain copies of digitised documents, photographs, newspapers and other media which have been selected for phase one of an ambitious digitisation programme. For family historians there is a wealth of information, made more accessible by the digitised format and name and subject searches at the touch of a button. Hundreds of church registers, wills, photographs and multiple titles of Manx newspapers spanning 1793 to 1960 are available. Obituaries, birth, marriage and death notices and mention of family members in press articles can all be retrieved after a simple search. Alongside digitised content of some deposits in the MNH Library and Archive Service are resources delivered in partnership with other agencies, notably the Isle of Man Family History Society. For instance the Society’s records of monumental inscriptions in the Island’s churchyards are now available digitally.
Isle of Man Stamps & Coins has worked with the Isle of Man Family History Society and Manx National Heritage to research prime themes associated with tracing Manx family history. In addition, they have featured the most common surnames found on the Isle of Man census of 1891. The issue text, in the presentation pack and first day cover, details these aspects and the valuable work of these institutions is also discussed.
Compulsory registration of births did not start on the Island until 1878 making baptismal entries in church registers before that time a prime means of tracing babies and their parents. Registers may reveal the maiden name of mothers as well as the father’s trade. When undertaking any Isle of Man family history research the starting point is the Parish Records. There are 17 parishes on the Island and, generally speaking, people rarely moved outside of their area. This, therefore, makes research a lot easier than you may first think.
Every family has a school photograph somewhere in their home. School records are an invaluable tool when researching the early life of a family member. Not all school registers survive so an alternative means of tracing an individual’s attendance is the school logbooks kept by head teachers. Sample entries, from South Cape School, Laxey in 1914, mention three children as well as illnesses which the teachers monitored.
The images featured on this stamp are drawn from the IOM Post Office archive. Of all the businesses and trades on the Island the delivery and despatch of letters and parcels has touched the lives of more people than any other in some way every day. A good resource for researching occupations is ‘Brown’s Directory’ of 1894; other directories, stretching back to 1824, can be consulted at Manx National Heritage.
Wedding photographs reveal a lot about family life and fashion at the time of the wedding. A picture outside a recognisable church can help you find the marriage in church registers. Marriage certificates, held at the General Registry in Douglas from 1884, provide more details about couples being researched. With modern technology people who would otherwise be very small on the typical group shot can be enlarged – this might be the only way to obtain an image of a family member.
For a researcher an invaluable resource is the family album, particularly if the people featured are named. When undertaking research, census records dating back to 1841 reveal much about a family and their circumstances. In the main photograph several generations are pictured and named in this family portrait. John Stevenson is shown on the 1881, 1891 and 1901 census living at Kerrowmoar, Lezayre, while John Southward was in Sulby Glen. The census, recorded every 10 years, can be found online as well as at MNH and IOM Family History Libraries.
During the 19th century many Manx people emigrated for financial reasons, leaving their homes deserted and to fall to ruin (known as ‘tholtans’). Sailings from Liverpool to North America and Australia were advertised in Manx newspapers. Passenger lists from the Isle of Man are very rare. Letters home and some recollections form a poignant reminder of the toll of enforced separation. The World Manx Association was established in 1911 to form Manx clubs around the world.
Deaths during the World Wars are recorded on many memorials throughout the Island and our stamp includes the base of that dedicated to the men of Ramsey. More recent losses are also commemorated with the very sad death of British soldier Corporal Michael David Gilyeat, who was killed on duty in Afghanistan on 30 May, 2007. Although born in Germany, he has strong local connections as his mother Maggy and Grandparents are Manx. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission maintains extensive records of servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice and archives details of their final resting place. On the Isle of Man, death certificates from 1878 are obtained from the General Registry in Douglas.
As anyone who has researched their family history will tell you, the best resources of all are the stories and items handed down from one generation to the next. To see a baby christened in a robe which has been lovingly cared for and passed down through six generations really evokes a sense of having roots in both the past and present.
Today’s generation is only a custodian for the next branch of the tree..