Society of Genealogists Library Archives


Society of Genealogists’ Library partially closed due to power failure

Yet agan local intermittent power supply problems have resulted in power problems in the Society of Genealogists’ Library (Wednesday 8 December) This means that the Middle and Lower Libraries at the SoG currently have no lights or computers and are temporaily closed until further notice. If the situation cntinues the Society will close at 4pm.

The Society of Genealpgists is very sorry for the inconvenience caused and we hope the problem is rectified as soon as possible. Anyone travelling to the Society is recommended to telephone reception 020 7251 8799 to establish the latest situation as we know it.  (updated 13.00 pm Wednesday 8 December)

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Burke’s peerage updates in the Society of Genealogists’ family history library

Family historians with aristocratic ancestry will know how useful Burke’s Peerage can be as a finding aid. However the printed version can become dated very quickly as people mentioned in its pages have children, are married, divorced or die.

Society of Genealogists’ member Nicholas Newington-Irving has therefore produced 12 volumes of updates to the 1999 and 2003 editions of Burke’s Peerage that list over 57,000 births, deaths and marriages that have occurred between 1999 and 2010. The information has been gleaned from collections of newspaper cuttings in the possession of the compiler.

An online index to these updates has now been made available for the first time on the Society of Genealogists’ Members Area. This contains the surname and forename of the person concerned, together with a note of which volume and page number the updates can be found in. Non members can do a free name search here but it is necessary to become a member to view the full references.

This is just one of a growing number of family history resources to be found on the Society’s Members Area.

Tim Lawrence

Head of Library Services

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Devon wills in the Society of Genealogists’ family history library

Anyone researching their family history in Devon will regret the loss of much of the county’s probate material in the 2nd world war. However the Society of Genealogist’s family history library in London holds indexes and transcripts of a number of Devon wills that were made before the loss, and some of these have now been made available on the Members’ Area of the Society’s website.

The Fothergill collection is a typical example. It was compiled in the early 1900s by Gerald Fothergill (1870-1926), an eminent genealogist and historian who lived in London. It is not clear why he compiled abstracts of sundry Devon wills, but he evidently went to Exeter and Taunton to study and abstract them, since almost all were proved and kept in one or other of those places. The abstracts can be found in the Middle library and an online index can be searched here.

Another book at the Society lists wills and administrations proved or granted at the Peculiar Court of the Dean of Exeter, from the 1630s to 1857.  All the original probate copies of wills proved in this court were destroyed in 1942.  This list therefore presents (with a few exceptions) the only surviving evidence that well over a thousand Devon individuals did in fact leave wills or had their estates administered.

The jurisdiction of the Dean’s Court covered the parish of Braunton (north-west of Barnstaple) and the Cathedral Close.  The latter area seems not to have been an actual parish, but merely the area immediately around the cathedral in Exeter.  Many of those who lived in the Cathedral Close worked in or for the cathedral in some way. The index can be searched here.

A third work lists wills and administrations proved or granted at the Peculiar Court of the Vicars Choral of Exeter, from the 1630s to 1857.  How and why the singing men in the choir at Exeter Cathedral came to have their own court is not known. Woodbury, the only parish which came under their jurisdiction, is a large one, not far south-east of Exeter.  An average of about four wills/administrations per year were dealt with, though this varied depending upon the time period. The index can be searched here.

The Devon Wills Project is seeking to gather details of as many Devon wills as possible and the Society is grateful for their help in compiling these indexes..

Tim Lawrence

Head of Library Services

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Tracing your Wiltshire ancestors with the Society of Genealogists

The Society of Genealogists houses the finest collection of family history records in the country. However in addition to its physical library in London it also makes some of its records available to Members over the internet.

One set of records to be found on the Members’ Area of its website will be of particular interest to those with Wiltshire ancestry. The Wiltshire Wills’ Beneficiaries Index was originally created by Mary Trace and Pat Wilson who donated it to the Society a number of years ago. It is particularly useful to family historians as it lists not just the testator (the person making the will) but also the beneficiaries (those who were left bequests).

Covering thousands of wills, administrations & other probate records of Wiltshire people for the period 1800-1858, the index lists the beneficiary’s relationship to the deceased, his/her place of residence and occupation (if this was recorded in the original document). However it does NOT contain details of the bequests themselves – for this you will need to view the original (held at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre).

Non-members can carry out a basic search here but to view the full record you will need to be a member of the Society of Genealogists

Tim Lawrence

Head of Library Services

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Was your ancestor a Polish immigrant to England?

If so you may find him/her mentioned in the Polish collection held at the Society of Genealogists family history library in London. These records were compiled by Antoni and Stella Szachnowski, members of the Catholic Family History Society, and donated to the Society of Genealogists in November 1999.

An index to part of the collection is now available on the Members Area of the SoG website. The first section (Polish Subsistence) includes returns of Polish refugees receiving assistance from the Grant voted by Parliament between 1838 and 1841.

The second section (Polish genealogy) covers a diverse range of records listing Polish immigrants. These include entries from the registers of the Chapel of the Virgin Mary of Czestochowa, baptisms from St Peter Apostulate, Electoral rolls for St Pancras (1891), Lambeth (1891), St Marylebone (1892) and Westminster Borough (1908), plus entries from the1841 Census of Portsea in Hampshire, the Polish Refugee Hospital  and naturalisation records.

Two further boxes of correspondence and papers assembled by Mr and Mrs Szachnowski but not indexed on the Members’ Area can be found amongst the Society’s Special Collections.

To search the above records click here. To view the full details you will need to be a member of the Society of Genealogists.

Tim Lawrence (Head of Library Services)

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