Family History Archives


A Report of our Group Visit to the London Metropolitan Archives, 16 January

A visit to the London Metropolitan Archives Business Collections and Pension Archive may not sound the most stimulating afternoon out, but those members who did attend were treated to a glimpse of a treasure trove of historical and genealogical gems.

It is easy to think of a business collection being little more than a list of dull company financial and employee records. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, the archivist stressed that not only have few such records have survived, but are mostly subject to the 100 year privacy rules.  Whereas there is a wealth of people information in other ‘unofficial’ documents such as employee photographs, local authority licensing and building records, factory production records, company sports club records, etc etc etc. Just one example of an unusual source of names came from the County of London Electricity Company archives.  They regularly published a news magazine throughout the Second World War, listing employees who had been called up for active service, taken prisoner of war, were missing or had been killed in action. These magazines also provided a sharp reminder of some of the wartime hardships when, for example, they apolo-gised for the size of the magazine because they couldn’t obtain enough paper!

Many readers will be aware of the extensive Sun Insurance records held by the LMA’s sister library at the Guildhall, listing policy holders and their addresses. I always assumed, erroneously, that these policies only applied to London, but in fact the Sun Insurance records also cover other parts of the UK. However, for the historian, there are even more fascinating documents in the Sun records. For example, we had the privilege of looking at a thick notebook written in 1868, from their Damascus office, describing that town in the utmost detail, yet most succinctly. Water supplies; abundant. Housing; miserable in the Christian and Jewish quarters. The ledger went on, page after page, to describe in detail the businesses, building construction, the infrastructure and a host of other information. Where else could one find such a detailed contemporaneous account of life in Damascus at that time.

Space does not allow a description of the many other examples that the archivist had provided for our interest, but clearly time spent exploring the LMA catalogue for such unusual and unex-pected records could be rewarding for both the historian and the genealogist. To help in this task, the LMA are producing a Guide To Business Records later this year.

We were also treated to a glimpse behind the scenes of the conservation work that is constantly being undertaken. One example that we were able to see, and almost touch, was a mediaeval Royal Charter of one of the City Livery Companies. One thing that become clear, talking to the conservator, was that in spite of the development of modern scientific materials and processes, conservation was still very much an art. But they still use handmade mulberry paper which, ap-parently, cannot be obtained anywhere else in the world except Japan. Its principal properties being it’s light weight and great strength from its fibrous construction.

Neither were there any standard conservation procedures, other than to do the minimum; conservation, not restoration.  Each document’s requirement was unique and only decided after it had been examined. Conservation practice has changed over the decades to today’s minimalist ap-proach which comprises just enough to support the document. The main object being to reduce long term damage and to ensure repairs are reversible. Indeed, much earlier conservation work now requires revisiting because of the further damage it caused.

A fascinating afternoon well spent and I would commend this visit to everyone should the opportunity arise to repeat it in the future.

-Barry Hepburn

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Look out for the Society of Genealogists on this week’s Find My Past TV show on Yesterday Channel on Tuesday 15 January at 9pm.

300px Dickens may 1852 Look out for the SoG on Find My Past TV show on Yesterday Channel on Tuesday 15 January at 9pm

Copy of a Photograph of Charles Dickens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This episode features a fascinating story concerning the double life of Charles Dickens and features Society of Genealogists’ Else Churchill as she helps reveal how people are related to someone from a significant historical event by searching the records on findmypast.co.uk. We follow their journey as they discover who their ancestor is and the part they played.

This week’s episode goes back to the Victorian era to tell the true story of Charles Dickens’ life. During the 19th century, Dickens was an international celebrity with journalists camped at his house and fans desperately trying to give him locks of their hair.

Ollie Dickens, the author’s great-great-great-grandson, discovers that his infamous ancestor had a dark secret that a fatal rail crash in Kent in 1865 almost exposed.

Travelling with Dickens was Nelly Ternan, a little-known actress. Her descendant, Marcus Allen, discovers that she was Dickens’ mistress and that their secret affair could have destroyed Dickens’ reputation and the sale of his books.

Joy Hillday uncovers her ancestor Henry Benge’s role in the disaster. Benge was in charge of the team of workmen who maintained the track on the day of the crash. An official inquiry reveals the tragic consequences of the crash.

Catch this episode at 9pm on Tuesday 15 January 2013 on the Yesterday channel: Freeview channel 19, Sky 537, Virgin Media 203.

historyhttp://www.findmypast.co.uk/content/find-my-past-tv/series-two-about

 Look out for the SoG on Find My Past TV show on Yesterday Channel on Tuesday 15 January at 9pm

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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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300px MontreGousset001 New BBC TV show: Surprise friends/family by restoring a treasured item that has gone to wear and tear

Pocket watch, savonette-type. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Society of Genealogists has just received this press release concerning an interesting new BBC TV programme called Restorers. Sounds interesting and we are sure there are family historians out there with some wonderful family heirlooms in need of some TLC.

 

The Restorers Press Release:

 

Boundless Productions seeking people with treasured items they’d like to restore for new BBC programme

Across the country there are thousands of treasured items now going to rust and ruin in lofts, garages and sheds, which, with a little work, could be brought back to life.

Have you seen an item like this? Is there a special item you would like to have restored for a relative, friend or loved one as a surprise?

TV company Boundless Productions is keen to hear from people who have an object of great personal importance that they’d like to restore as part of a prospective new series for the BBC.

The Restorers team are on the hunt for potential stories now and would love to hear from any readers who have an item of great sentimental value, which, with a little magic, could be restored to its former glory.

This could be anything, big or small, from childhood toys to favourite ornaments, pocket watches, grandfather clocks, vintage televisions and radios, rusty bikes, ageing armchairs, old family portraits, musical instruments, broken Juke boxes, a treasured pinball machine or even a classic car!

It could be something that’s special to you that you’d love to be restored or an object you’d like to restore as a surprise for the well-deserving owner.

To get in touch or find out more please email therestorers@boundlessproductions.tv or call 0207 861 8081 and leave a message. Standard geographic charges from landlines and mobiles will apply.

Alternatively here’s a link to the BBC website for details of how be involved with the show http://www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/shows/beonashow/the_restorers

Please send photos of your objects if possible.

See data-protection terms at: http://www.fremantlemediauk.com/data-protection

 New BBC TV show: Surprise friends/family by restoring a treasured item that has gone to wear and tear

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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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