Family History Events Archives


Society of Genealogists 2013 Events Programme

The 2013 events programme including lectures, courses, visits, walks & talks  is now online. Events are now searchable by date, type of event and also by topic.

To view the programme and book an event, SoG members should first log into the MySoG  area of the website in order to enter the online shop and make bookings.  Non-members are also welcome to attend events, and the programme can be viewed by visiting our online shop.  Please remember that online bookings help reduce the society’s administration costs and will save you a postage charge.  You may also pay by cheque, payable to the “Society of Genealogists” (please remember to add .60 for postage or enclose a SASE) or by telephone: 020 7553 3290.

Do you have a question? email the events department

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Society of Genealogists Open Day – 23 March 2013

SOG exterior 2 199x300 Society of Genealogists Open Day   23 March 2013The Society of Genealogists will run several Free events as part of its Open Day: Library Tours at 12:30, 1:30 & 4:15, and free advice on starting or furthering your family history. Free lectures: 11:00 – Family History for Beginners, 12:30- Treasures of the Society of Genealogists, 3:00-Finding Birth, Marriage & Death Records. Coffee & tea will be available. Although free, spaces are limited and so must be pre-booked, either through our website by telephone: 020 7553 3290, or by email

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A report on the society’s visit to the Ragged School Museum

ragged 300x257 A report on the societys visit to the Ragged School MuseumWhose Jewish father illegally married his deceased wife’s Irish Quaker sister but allegedly got around the law by marrying in a German church?

Who was born in Dublin in 1845, the sickly fifth child of the second wife and not thought to survive?

Who was encouraged by his mother to go to an evangelist meeting in 1862 at the age of 16 where he ‘found’ Christ and later joined the Plymouth Brethren?

Who was committed to temperance yet it is believed he started his working life as an apprentice to a wine merchant?

Who moved to London in 1866 at the age of 20 to train as a missionary to China?

Who was rejected by the Mission because, it is said, his energy and zeal made him unsuitable?

Who had an incredible ability to organise and whose desk contained an array of pigeonholes for that purpose?

Who, had a timing clock on his desk operated by ivory discs of various sizes each with a time value and, arguably, invented time management?

Who adopted the title of Dr before he was qualified to do so?

Who died in 1905 and was, unusually for the time, cremated with his ashes buried in the grounds of his Barkingside children’s home?

We are, of course, talking about Thomas John Barnardo.  SoG Members and guests were treated to these and many other snippets about his life, by Erica Davies, the Director of the Ragged School Museum on Copperfield Road, Mile End, during a visit on the 21st August 2012.   Yet in over an hour she was only able to scrape the surface of a lifetime dedicated to the poor and needy.

In 1877, Barnardo rented a canal side warehouse to convert to a ragged school and todays museum was an adjacent building which he added to his ragged school in 1895 because of overcrowding.  Copperfield Road Ragged School was not the first by any means but was the largest, accommodating nearly 300 children in day classes rising to over a thousand by 1895.  In addition, there was a playground in the basement for the younger children, evening classes for the older working children and a gymnasium for the boys. The Sunday School was attended by 2500 at that time. The children were also provided with free breakfast and dinner which in 1888 alone amounted to a staggering 68,000 free meals.  The school bell still remains and is shown in the photo below.

His first venture into missionary work with children was in 1866 when he took two cottages in Limehouse and founded the East End Juvenile Mission which ran a ragged school, church services, bible & sewing classes.  It proved to be a turning point in his life’s work.  One evening, a child remained behind and begged to stay the night in front of the fire.  The boy was not only an orphan but was also homeless, sleeping rough on the streets.  It was then that Barnardo discovered there were many similar children who had somehow slipped the Poor Law net and he opened his first boy’s home at Stepney Causeway.

With his unbounding energy and exceptional organisational skills he went on to found not just a few ragged schools but a whole network of institutions aimed at helping the poor and disadvantaged lead more fulfilling lives.  His overriding aim was to save, educate, train and find employment for these children, enabling them to lead decent, Christian, family lives.  He bought the Edinburgh Castle public house and converted it into a Coffee Palace for Working Men.  He created the Boot Blacking Brigade, the City Messenger Brigade, the Wood Chopping Brigade, the Servants Free Registry and Training School, the Factory Girls Club & Institute, the Working Lads Institute and a host of other similar opportunities to help those at the bottom of the human pile to gain their independence through employment.

He produced a relentless stream of pamphlets, aimed at tugging the heart strings in a way that today would be seen as exploitation or politically incorrect and even in those Victorian times got him frequently into trouble.  Yet they helped him to raise during his life time the staggering sum of over £3 million (worth £200 million at today’s prices), without which he could not have helped the  thousands who passed through his hands.  Some of his methods bordered on the criminal but always with the children’s interests at heart.  Sending children to Canada became a contentious issue because of some well publicised failures but there were many hundreds more who were helped to a prosperous life in a new country.  Neither were they sent to fend for themselves.  Before they left, Barnardo ensured that a proper care structure was in place and each child had a bank account into which their wages were paid and saved until they were 21.

His funeral came as close to a State Funeral as imaginable, demonstrating the love and affection the East End had for Thomas John Barnardo.  His body lay in the People’s Mission Church at the Edinburgh Castle for four days where thousands of people came to pay their last respects.  On the day of the funeral, thousands lined the streets, shops closed and the cortege was followed by 1500 boys from his many homes and institutions.

Even now, more than 100 years since his death, Thomas John Barnardo is still an inspiration and led me to seek out so much more of the life story of this remarkable man, beyond the commonly held perception of his Children’s homes and questionable practice of sending of children to Canada.

– Barry Hepburn

The  Ragged School Museum is located at 46-50 Copperfield Road, London E3 4RR. For more information, visit their website

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BBC looking for photos that tell a great London family story

The Society of Genealogists has received the following request. Can you help?

BBC London is delving into the past with a new series called ‘Your London: Your Place in History’  – looking at how YOU can discover the secrets of your past simply by looking through your family album.

But we need your help. Do you possess a collection of old family photographs? Ever wondered if the pictures might reveal more about WHO your ancestors were, and the life they may have led? kipling11 thumb BBC looking for photos that tell a great London family story

Maybe it’s a photo of your great-great uncle whose career was to ring the bells at Bow or your aunt – a flapper girl in the ’30s with a colourful life?

You may have been told stories about them by other members of your family but would like the help of our expert photo-historian to see if the pictures hold any more clues about them.

If so, then get in touch – yourlondon@bbc.co.uk  – And you and your snaps could be featured on BBC London TV.

Please leave a brief description of the photographs you have and a contact telephone number. You must live in London and willing to be filmed. We regret we will not be able to respond to all emails.

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A Report of the Society’s Visit to Christ Church Spitalfields on 25 January 2012

Thank God for neglect!  Mauling by the Victorians and then neglect to the point of dereliction by the late 1950’s provided the opportunity to restore this beautiful Hawksmoor baroque church, not just to its former glory but to its original 1729 glory; a shining beacon in this run down and deprived area of East London.  Yet in the late 1950’s it was deemed unsafe for the congregation to use and destined to be demolished – something that Hitler had failed to do (although the crypt replete with coffins was used as an air raid shelter!).   A committee (The Hawksmoor Committee) was formed to raise public awareness and campaign for the church’s retention, which they achieved with great success in spite of the then Bishop of Stepney’s views (Trevor Huddleston).   Although the church was saved, it remained derelict for many years.  Then in 1976 the Friends of Christ Church was formed to raise money for its restoration at a cost in excess of £10 million, which took until 2004, although parish worship was able to return in 1987.  Restoration is not quite complete: funds are still needed to restore the original 1735 Richard Bridge Organ, the pulpit and the lectern.  The result is a church much as the original architect intended, considered his masterpiece at the time and the size of a small cathedral, extensively using the original timber and other materials. The only Victorian feature retained is the 1876 stained glass east window which was too good to remove.

From a genealogy point of view there is wealth of information available, starting with the Natural History Museum!  The crypt contained 1000 iron coffins, piled high and even stood on end in every available space.  Yet the coffins had been so perfectly sealed that the contents had been preserved; clothes and bodies.  The value of this to historians, archeologists and even scientists was recognised, eventually resulting in the coffins being ‘loaned’ to the Natural History Museum in the 1980’s for research, where they are due to remain for another 10 years.  Every coffin was clearly inscribed and an index is available from the museum.  A further 68,000 burials have taken place in the churchyard, many in similar iron coffins.  These have all been reinterred but the church hold records of the bodies that could be identified.  In the past, the church has also been connected with both the East London Huguenots and Jewish communities, particularly the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews who placed a number of memorial tablets in the church.

A fabulous building well worth a visit if you can but with a great deal more information and photographs on their web sites.  http://www.christchurchspitalfields.org/v2/home/home.shtmland http://www.ccspitalfields.org/ The internet is also a good source of information about Nicholas Hawksmoor who was a pupil and protege of Christopher Wren, responsible for many notable buildings in England including six London churches erected under the 1711 Act for Fifty New Churches.

Barry Hepburn

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