When did the Society of Genealogists’ neighbourhood become cool and trendy?


I’ve just stepped out for a bite to eat on a quiet Saturday at the Society of Genealogists. The library is busy and there is a workshop on in the lecture room but it’s a quiet day generally as there  is little of the normal weekday traffic buzzing around our corner of London’s EC1M where Goswell Road meets Clerkenwell Road and Old Street.sog_front (web) Since the closure of the Family Record Centre I’ve not walked about our neighbourhood so much recently but it doesn’t take much to notice that there has been a significant gentrification of the area. The building works next door to the Society have finally finished and the new William Harvey Heart Centre next door to us at the end of the Charterhouse Buildings cul-de-sac was formally opened on July 7th 2011.  The Heart Centre is part of the new Queen Mary Charterhouse Square Campus in collaboration with Barts Hospital and The London NHS Trust.Opposite the Society’s front door , on what used to be the last bomb site in London, stands a modern block of apartments, very expensive office furniture shops and a veterinary practice.

Turn left at the end of the Charterhouse Buildings cul-de-sac you come to historic Clerkenwell now with new restaurants including the very highly acclaimed Modern Pantry and the exclusive Zetter Hotel and Townhouse on the corner of St John’s Square. Over the road  is the fascinating St John’s Gate; the the historic home of the Order of St John and a landmark in Clerkenwell since 1504, which has been picked by Londoners to represent Islington on a commemorative badge for the 2012 Olympics.  The church of St James Clerkenwell still provides a quiet oasis of calm to sit and eat a sandwich on a sunny lunch time but the trendy set still head for the pubs and bars of Clerkenwell Green and Farringdon during the week.

Today’s weekend engineering works on the Metropolitan and Hammersmith & Circle lines closed Barbican underground station, so a stroll up Old Street to Old Street tube station past the  newly renovated church of St Lukes’ Old Street means you can see how the new LSO St Luke’s concert and rehearsal centre have added vibrancy to this part of town.  Turn off Old Street down Whitecross Street and you’ll come to some of the best street food and restaurants in London. Usually the street food vendors serve exotic  but incredibly tasty and cheap cuisine to the lunch time office workers and residents from the nearby Peabody Trust Estate (wonderfully interesting flats built in London clay brick) but the restaurants stay open at weekends too. This weekend the street food vendors, local shops and artists held a  food and rather avant-gard music arts festival as part of the open London free weekend events leading up to the Olympic cultural celebrations.  The food smells were divine and I wish I hadn’t had lunch before I walked down the street. Whitecross Street I did resist the temptation of the most wonderful meringues and pastries. I loved the jazz and Whitecross (2)local community choir but couldn’t quite work out the art.








Whitecross Street portrait

Turn right at the bottom of White Cross Street past Fortune Street Park and you’ll come out at the Barbican Tube station opposite the Barbican Arts Centre and Exhibition Halls. All of this culture is available within 30 minutes round walk from the Society of Genealogists. A very pleasant way to get some air and stretch your legs before hitting the SoG books shelves and manuscripts. I like working on a  Saturday.

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Society of Genealogists’ Summer Membership Offer


Rain on St Swithin’s Day forebodes a dreadful summer of 40 days of rain. So what are  family historians to do if you can’t be distracted from your genealogy by trips beach or forays into the garden? Well you could  just get on with your genealogical research and how better to do that than join the Society of Genealogists in its Centenary Year?


The Society of Genealogists’  Summer Membership Special Offer waives the joining administration fee of  £10 until 30 September 2011. This means your first year’s membership is only £45 (or £27 for overseas members). Join the Society  of Genealogists today and your discounted membership will be valid until October 2012. IN ADDITION the Society’s Summer membership Offer includes free  Family Tree Builder genealogy software (while stocks last).SoG Building Photo (GM cover 2010) (web)


Benefits of membership including FREE access to the SoG Library,  FREE data online, FREE Genealogists Magazine, FREE access to genealogy websites in the SoG Library and discounted books and courses are outlined on the Society of Genealogists website .


Download the application form today and quote SSP11 to take advantage of the Summer Special Membership Offer.

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New Society of Genealogists Family History Collection – Business Index published on line

We’re now tantalisingly close to discovering who Lord Alan Sugar will choose to be his next business partner, with the final of The Apprentice hitting our screens on Sunday. The Society of Genealogists also got the business bug as we’ve just published the Business Index Collection in association with the Findmypast.

The Society of Genealogists Business Index Collection is also available to SoG members via MySoG on the Society’s website www.sog.org.uk


The record collection is made up of a selection of 17 books and trade dictionaries produced in different areas of the UK from 1893 – 1927, with 9,757 records showcasing businesses and prominent people of the late Victorian era and early twentieth century. You can find out more detailed information about the Business Index Collection.

The records are a superb family history resources. They can provide a lot of detail about your ancestors’ lives, often including a photograph and a short biography which will detail their education and experience, memberships of corporations and clubs, their hobbies or leisure activities as well as any charities they may have been involved with.

Else Churchill, Genealogical Officer at the Society of Genealogists, explains:

“The Business Index directories complement other family history sources such as censuses or birth, marriage and death records. While these records may merely state trade or occupation, the Business Index can include exactly what your ancestor did and often include potted histories of the family business, showing when it was founded and the generations of the family members who worked together. These stories put flesh on the bones of our ancestors. Society of Genealogists volunteers have been working hard to make these rare directories from its extensive library collections more readily available for the genealogists and we are delighted to be able to publish this first set of data.” 

Women in Business

We’ve had a hunt through the Business Index Collection and have found a number of successful women included, particularly around the early 1900s. This is fairly surprising considering the historical context of the records. It was not until 1928 that women were granted the right to vote on the same terms as men and the universities of Oxford and Cambridge had only opened their degrees to women some eight years earlier.

The successful businesswomen featured in the records include:


Helena Normanton – The first woman to practise as a barrister in the UK when she was called to the Bar of England and Wales in 1922.BusinessIndex_NotablePersonalities1927_305-Normanton_HELENA alone



Irene Barclay – The first woman in Britain to qualify as a chartered surveyor. Barclay helped to set up a number of housing associations around the country, improving living conditions for many people. 

Dame Lilian Braithwaite – Celebrated actress who appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Downhill and Noel Coward’s play The Vortex.

Marion Lyon – The Advertisement Manager of Punch magazine and the only woman to hold a position of this nature in the early twentieth century.

Radclyffe Hall – Author of The Well of Loneliness, a novel about a lesbian relationship published in 1928. The book was declared obscene and was withdrawn from sale.




Lilian Baylis – Manager of the Old Vic and Sadler’s Wells theatres. Baylis also ran an opera company that later became the English National Opera, a theatre company that became the Royal National Theatre and a ballet company that became the Royal Ballet.

Debra Chatfield, findmypast.co.uk’s Marketing Manager, comments:

“The Business Index Collection shows us that while our female ancestors were fighting for the right to vote and to go to university, countless women were already business leaders. This is all the more amazing when you consider that today, fewer than 14% of FTSE 100 board positions are held by women.”

Search the Business Index Collection now to see if any of your ancestors are included!

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Family Tree Maker Software for Beginner & Advanced Users: 30 June 2012

10:30am-1pm – Family Tree Maker Software for Beginners
This workshop will cover the foundation essentials needed to understand the program and is suitable for beginners. The separate afternoon advanced course runs from 2-5pm. It is preferable that those taking the advanced afternoon course, also take Mike’s morning course  (those that are familiar with the basics, can take this as a refresher).

Taught by Mike Bollinger, each course costs  £17.50/£14.00 (SoG members) and must be pre-booked and pre-paid. Visit our online shop or telephone 020 7553 3290. Have a question? email events department.

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Wills, Wills, Wills

Wills are a fantastic resources for any family historian and it’s great news to hear of more being made readily available.

Ancestry.co.uk have been filling in some of the earlier gaps in its coverage of the post 1858 will indexes for England and Wales and we hear that these indexes are to be made free to view for the next week until 9th July.

We’ve been playing about with Ancestry’s new dataset of London wills 1528-1858 and trying to establish exactly what it contains. Comparison with various other indexes and sources and the site itself suggests these are the original wills  from those church courts whose records were formerly lodged at Guildhall and are now at London Metropolitan Archives (Commissary  and Archdeaconry of London) along with those from the Consistory of London and Archdeaconry of Middlesex which were always a LMA.

The collection does not, at present, include any testamentary records which might be found amongst the old Register Copy Wills or in the Will Act Books nor in the Administrations of those who died intestate. So don’t be beguiled into thinking these are the only probate records for Londoners.  As Ancestry’s site says there are still other records to check back at LMA.  It’s a fantastic start and the images of the documents it has are excellent. BUT you should still check all of the published indexes to the various London courts whether they be published by the British Record Society or on other websites.

The Society of Genealogists library has free access to Ancestry.co.uk as well as Findmypast and British Origins which also have useful indexes to wills for the London area. The SoG’s library of books and documents contains many abstracts and copies of London wills and some of these are indexed amongst the SoG data on MySoG. The Society has all of the manuscripts, printed and published indexes available for the church courts that governed wills including those for London  and Westminster. Note also that many Londoners’ wills were probated in the highest church court known as the Prerogative Court of Canterbury which has records at The National Archives. These indexed on TNA’s Documents Online webbsite which is also free to view at the Society of Genealogists.

For more information on using wills see the SoG free information leaflet on Wills.

Remember where there’s a will there’s a genealogist

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