Archive for 2011

Nunhead Cemetery Open Day – 21 May 2011

 The Society will be present at the Nunhead Cemetery Open Day again this year.  We will be manning a small stall, with leaflets and a selection of Society publications.

The Open Day runs from 11a.m. to 5p.m. and admission is free.  There will be guided tours of the cemetery and visits to the chapel and crypt (which are not normally open), as well as various stalls, plant sales, refreshments and a choir in the chapel (!)  See the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery website for further details (  If you have not been to Nunhead Cemetery before, it is well worth a visit.  We look forward to seeing you there!



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Final Countdown to Society of Genealogists Centenary Conference 7th May

 Forget the Royal Wedding. Forget the May Bank Holiday. The spring event of 2011 is the Society of Genealogists’ Centenary  Conference at the Royal Overseas League, Park Place,  St James’ Street. London SW1A 1LR on Saturday May 7th

if you are coming to hear our excellent speakers or meet up wth SoG friends and members to celebrate the Society’s 100th  Birthday we are looking forward to seeing you. There are still one or two spaces available and can be booked online through the Society of Genealogists Online Shop

The Conference speakers’ schedule is below


Registration/Tea & Coffee


Welcome – Princess Alexandra Hall

Colin Allen FSG (Chairman of SoG) & Debra Chatfield (Marketing Manager, Find My Past – SoG Centenary Sponsors)

10.30-11.30 Session 1A – Princess Alexandra Hall

Speaker: Dr Nick Barratt

Chairman: Debra Chatfield:

From Memory to Digital Record: Personal Heritage, Family History and Archives in the 21st Century

An examination of the rise of personal heritage and personal archiving, alongside changes to the way history is disseminated, researched and consumed – mainly driven by broadcast media and the Internet. The challenges to traditional archives are many and varied, and I examine the role of genealogy in expanding the use of non-traditional archives, and the growing influence of oral history and eye-witness accounts that are usually neglected by academic historians

Session 1B – Hall of India

Speaker: Schelly Talalay Dardashti

Chairman: Else Churchill

It’s In Our Genes: A DNA Project Case Study 

This session (by project co-founder/co-administrator) presents the structure of creating and organizing any DNA project, using an established project as a case study. It covers setting project goals and joining criteria; how to publicize the project; persuading participants to join; results and surprises, advertising results and communicating with participants.

The program focuses on IberianAshkenaz DNA. Project at as a case study, but is equally applicable to a DNA project covering any ethnicity. This project attempts to prove the family stories of some Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews that their families were of Sephardic origin (with roots in Spain or Portugal).

Speaker Sponsored by the Halsted Trust


11.45-12.45 Session 2A – Princess Alexandra Hall

Speaker: Dr Colin R Chapman

Chairman: Professor Peter Spufford, FSG

The Progress of Our Profile – 100 years of the SoG

An illustrated account of the Society’s development from 1911 to 2011 and its impact on international genealogical research. Born in borrowed premises, the Society embraced interests across the United Kingdom, British Empire and then worldwide, collecting unique and transcribed materials into its ever-expanding prestigious library. Public access to Government historical papers and archives throughout the past 100 years has been championed by the Society voicing forceful arguments to national committees and consultation groups. With a century of expertise from paper-based notes to electronic storage and delivery of data and documentation, the SoG continues to advance with the times

Session 2B – Hall of India

Speaker: Dr Bruce Durie FLS, FSAScot, FHEA

Chaiman: John Hanson

The Future of Genealogy Education

Genealogy is at a cusp – increasing professionalism requires more formal educational provision, and the public is coming to expect educational and professional credentials.

At the same time, Genealogical Studies is becoming a recognised academic discipline.

How will this be delivered, and what are the implications for existing and intending professional genealogists

Speaker Sponsored by the Halsted Trustclip_image001[1] 

12.45-14.00 Lunch
14.00-15.00 Session 3A – Princess Alexandra Hall

Speaker: Jeremy Goldsmith

Chairman : Richard Sturt


Parish Registers: Problems and Progress

Parish registers have often been regarded as the primary source of vital statistics prior to civil registration (1538-1837), though this was not the purpose of their creation. Their effective use must also take into account the problems of migration, non-registration and non-conformity. Over the past century, public access to registers has been aided by the establishment of County Record Offices, while the transcription and publication of registers has enabled the wide distribution of much genealogical data. More recently, the searching of registers across parish boundaries has been facilitated by the development of electronic databases and digitization of the original records.


Session 3BHall of India 

Speaker: Sharon Hintze

Chairman: Mike Wood

The Past, Present And Future of Records Preservation and Public Access


This talk will review the changes to preservation of and access to genealogical records d over the last 100 years and will then describe the current state-of-the-art tools and future developments. Included will be an assessment as to how genealogists have contributed to and adapted to these changes

15.15-16.15 Session 4A – Princess Alexandra Hall

Speaker: Dr Gill Draper, FRHist. Soc, FSA.

Chairman: June Perrin

Beyond The Grave: Challenges of Family Reconstruction Before the 18th Century


This illustrated lecture explores the challenges of taking a family history back in time beyond the 18th century, perhaps even to the Middle Ages. Using the example of the Godfreys of Lydd, Kent, it considers material from church brasses, plaques, monuments, wills and antiquarian pedigrees. The lecture argues that two technological innovations make family reconstruction in the distant past seem ever more possible: the huge amount of material now available online and the use of relational databases like Access to bring together people with the same surname. It reviews both the pitfalls and the potential of this approach.

Session 4B – Hall of India

Speaker: Alec Tritton

Chairman:Michael Isherwood

Family History Communication in the 21st Century – Blogging, Social Networking and Ezines

The digital world is changing; no longer is it sufficient to just put up a static website as there are more people using YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other Social Networking sites than search the Internet daily. The search engines today prefer blogs with regular fresh new content. This creates a challenge to the average family historian wishing to make their genealogies available to the widest audience on the World Wide Web. This lecture will help to explain how these new uses of the Internet can be used for family history

16.15-16.30 Tea & CoffeeHall of India
16.30-17.30 Session 5A – Princess Alexandra Hall

Speaker: Beverley Charles Rowe 

Beyond Soundex


Name matching systems, such as Soundex, have been seen as a tool for social and local historians but lacking the accuracy needed for family research. But as available datasets get larger and larger, search automation seems more attractive.

This paper compares the many different methods of name matching in use within the databases we use regularly and suggests how a family historian might proceed

Session 5B – Hall of India

Speaker: Else Churchill

Chairman: June Perrin

I’ve Got a Little List – Digital & Other Sources for the “Long 18th Century” 1688-1837

An overview of the sources that can supplement the deficiencies of parish registers using what are known in the SoG Library as “local lists” generated for ad-hoc need or census substitutes and lists generated by the parish such as the duties on baptism and marriages 1695-1706 or the provision for parish poor; lists generated for defense such as musters and militia; lists generated by the state for taxation and lists of voters and ratepayers. Some of these underused treasures of the SoG will be digitized for the forthcoming business index and other projects.

17.45-18.30 Session 6 –Speaker: Juliet NicolsonChairman: Alec Tritton, Chairman Hasted Trust

Princess Alexandra Hall

The Perfect Summer. Dancing into the Shadow in 1911 The summer of 1911– the year the SoG was founded – is seen through the eyes of a series of exceptional individuals including a debutante, a choir boy, a politician, a trade unionist, a butler and the Queen. A new king was crowned and audiences swarmed to Covent Garden to see the Ballet Russes and Nijinsky’s gravity-defying leaps. The aristocracy was at play, bounding from house party to the next; the socialite Lady Michelham travelled with her nineteen yards of pearls while Rupert Brooke a 23-year-old poet spent the summer swimming in the river at Grantchester. But perfection was over-reaching itself. The rumble of thunder from the summer’s storms presaged not only the bloody war years ahead: the country was brought to near standstill by industrial strikes, and unrest, exposing the chasm between privileged and poor as if the heat was torturing those imprisoned in society’s straitjacket and stifled by the city smog. Children, seeking relief from the scorching sun, drowned in village ponds. What the protagonists could not have known is that they were playing out the backdrop to WWI; in a few years time the world, let alone Britain, would never be the same again. Juliet Nicolson illuminates a turning point in history.

Speaker Presented by the Halsted Trust


  Comfort Break or Bars
19.30 Conference BanquetHall of India
  Musical Entertainment by Catherine Howe and Vo Fletcher 

Banquet Talk

David Fletcher

1942 ….. “in afternoon went to Soc of Genealogists, cost £3.3.0, a fine place.”


A fascinating glimpse into the diarised accounts of genealogical research undertaken by two members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England, the first in 1889 and the second in the 1940’s. 

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Society of Genealogists 1911-2011 Celebration Family History Stamps

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..

London Metropolitan Archives invited representatives of the London genealogy community to attend its first Family History Forum at the archive on 20 April 2011. This was attended by the Genealogist from the Society of Genealogists, and representatives from the Federation of Family History Societies, North West Kent FHS, London, Westminster and Middlesex FHS, East Surrey FHS, and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain. The meeting was chaired by Deborah Jenkins (Assistant Director: Heritage).

A lot has happened in the London archive community recently with the Guildhall Library, Archives and Art Gallery having been amalgamated with the London Metropolitan Archives bringing effective control of 3 services under the Corporation of London. The recent partnership with to digitise records sets of genealogical, social and local significance has very much changed the nature of the service provided by the archives. The forum was called to update the family history community on issues affecting LMA.


Sadly, though perhaps inevitably in the current climate, the first item on the agenda was a statement by David Pearson (Director: Libraries, Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery Department) about the requirement for the department to make savings of 15.9% in its budget for 2011-12. Having been consulting users via the LMA website and drop in meetings since March the department is now pretty much ready to decide how it will make these savings. Yes it will mean reduced opening hours, fewer Saturday openings and compulsory redundancies amongst the staff.

As this procedure is still in process we have no news yet of how much expertise or resource will be lost from the archive and this must clearly be unsettling for staff. The new online catalogue has meant a 30% increase in the number of document ordered and delivered at the archive (some76,000 over the year with nearly 90% of them delivered within 20 minutes). There were 29,000 visitors – all be it 6% drop on the previous year. It will be interesting to see how after the cuts LMA can continue to provide services to such numbers or continue to receive the high satisfaction feed back it currently receives via user surveys or its leading 4* position under TNA’s archive assessment scheme.

Essentially LMA will close on Fridays and will be open only one Saturday a month. This will take place from November after the stock taking week, having given a suitable period for notice etc for staff. To compensate in some way for this LMA will be introducing longer opening hours on Wednesdays making late night opening to 7.30pm on Tuesday -Thursdays. A significant number of people had asked LMA not to close on the same day as other major repositories. (Both TNA and SoG are closed on Mondays) making it possible to do some research at least in London on this day. The number of researchers on Saturdays has been falling dramatically and it will be reviewed in a year whether to continue to open on Saturday. So this means if you want LMA to remain open on Saturdays it’s a case of use it or lose it.


Charlotte Shaw (Head of Collections and Systems) provided an overview on the last two years partnership with to digitise and make available significant LMA collections. Phase one of the project is progressing steadily with C of E parish registers, Board of Guardian Records, School and Nonconformist registers having come on stream. In the next few months the diocesan wills formerly held in LMA and Guildhall will be online and indexed with electoral registers up to 1965 and City of London Freedom records to follow.

Stage two of the project is seeing negotiations with the various city livery companies to allow the deposited records from the Guildhall to be digitised and made available. This will not include those livery company records retained by the companies themselves. 2012 will see the inclusion of the City & Tower Hamlets Cemetery records and some Session Records.

Questions were raised about omissions in the digitised records and misattributions. It was made clear that some older films NOT created by LMA itself were OMMITTED from the Ancestry project as they were not of suitable quality. Also films were digitised only when LMA had copies of the original records and permission from the authorities for their use. LMA seemed unaware of the problems of the mis-attribution of some of the sources supposedly included by The SoG Genealogist promised to provide a link to some comments on this information.

Miriam Silverman (Ancestry: UK Content Manager) followed up with more information about the future projects. Ancestry’s scanners continue to process records at LMA. They are currently working on the Guildhall and LMA Collections of Poll Books and the Overseas Returns. The London wills number nearer 400,000 which a much larger number than had initially been thought to exist. A broader spectrum of records will include parish confirmations, Middlesex transported convict records, Surrey Marriage Bonds and Allegations, London Land Tax and London Poll books though they will also be including the Guildhall’s copies of poll books for places outside London. It is hoped that most of the records will be indexed with a pilot of the early poor law records under way through Ancestry’s World Archives Projects that allows volunteers at home to index images of the records made available to the community.

There was discussion about the updating and improvements made to any mistakes or omissions in the indexing or transcription of records. Work is being done to identify and amend any problems across collections in addition to using the correction and amendment procedures already made available to users of the Ancestry site. Essentially any one who has discovered errors and problems should let LMA and Ancestry know about it.


Nicola Avery (Principal Archivist, Archives Systems) provided a list of some of the new accessions recently acquired by LMA. Some of which were made available to view in the conservation room after the meeting. These include records for several churches and religious institutions, a copy of a missing interment register for Darenth Assylum and an accumulated register of the City of London School 19000-1920. LMA is currently negotiating the deposit of the registers of All Hallows Barking by the Tower – one of the last 2 city parishes to deposit its records.


In addition to some of the statistics mentioned above Tim Harris (Head of Access and Buildings) reported on issues relating to the physical care of the building. One significant point to note is that a service lift is to be refurbished between November and December which will affect the production of records. If anything it might be better to avoid making a visit in this period and certainly give lots of notice using the advanced ordering facility on the online catalogue. One interesting point to note from the results of the user survey is that for the first time the percentage of users reporting their interest as genealogical was down to 60% with 40% saying they had other reasons for using the record office.

The next meeting of the LMA User forum will be in September. In the meantime anyone interested in receiving information about new and events from LMA can sign up for the electronic newsletter

A report of the Society’s visit to the Royal Hospital Chelsea on 15th April 2011

A delightful visit for 21 Members and their guests who were most royally entertained by Tom, one of the in pensioners, resplendent in his red ceremonial uniform which he admitted he avoided wearing outside the Hospital because of the unwelcome attention it attracted.  His 25 years service in the army (Royal Engineers) showed in his cynical and philosophical wit, which shone through.  Knowing when to salute and when to hide came second nature and he left us with the problem of deciding, at times, where truth ended and fiction began!  

The history of the Royal Hospital Chelsea is well documented and need not be repeated here.  Their web site ( also contains much interesting information including a little about births (?) marriages and burials.  As we went around with Tom many additional interesting facts emerged.  Yes it is true that each pensioner’s ‘berth’ was a six feet by six feet timber windowless hut until relatively recent times but have now been upgraded to …. nine feet by nine feet!  And for every 36 men there are just 4 toilets and 2 showers.  There were other benefits in the past such as their own in house brewery and 5 gallons of beer between four men at dinner every day, served from a leather jug. 

A wooden marquetry alter piece in the chapel which was, allegedly, rescued from the Great Fire of London but its origins have been lost in time.  However, it is believed there is writing on the back which may indicate its history but removing the piece for confirmation would present too big a risk (also allegedly!).  The chapel is also used for private weddings, as a source of income.

There is a large ongoing refurbishment and redevelopment project which will eventually give each pensioner two rooms and an ensuite bathroom.  Some have already been completed and the recent admission of three lady pensioners raised a few grumbles when it was discovered that they were moving straight into the new
accommodation, ahead of men who had been there perhaps 30 years.  Until one gentleman was offered a place in the new wing but decided he was happier staying where he was!  Old soldiers never change.

Part of the redevelopment was a brand new infirmary, opened last year and named after Margaret Thatcher who remains a keen supporter of the Hospital.  The Hospital is still very dependent upon fund raising and Margaret Thatcher is credited with raising millions of pounds through her forceful determination with visiting dignitaries to the UK. The Hospital Chapel remains her regular place of Sunday worship.  The Chelsea Flower Show is held on the Hospital’s land which makes an important contribution to funds, together with other events through the year on the same site.  

An entertaining visit, ably enhanced by Tom’s good humour and I felt it was a privilege to meet him.

Barry Hepburn

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