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

banner1 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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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 of the Society’s visit to the City of London Cemetery & Crematorium

group 300x225 A report of the Societys visit to the City of London Cemetery & CrematoriumOn 11 May a small but very keen group was taken around the Grade II listed City of London Cemetery and Crematorium by the Superintendent & Registrar, Gary Burks.  The 1200 acres located on the edge of Epping Forest and across from Wansted Flats and originally farmland,  was originally purchased by the City Corporation in 1853 to provide more space for the already overcrowded burial grounds in the City. The cemetery design was laid out by the well-known City Surveyor, William Haywood, and opened in 1856.

Gary gave us a very thorough background history of the cemetery before  the tour and we were also able to briefly view the burial registers. As the registers are in date order, anyone wanting to have a search done would need to know the approximate date of death in order to find someone in the registers. Searches can be done for a fee, contact the City of London Cemetery for further details. The registers are currently being digitised and the Corporation of London hopes to make them available on the internet in the near future. regsiters 300x223 A report of the Societys visit to the City of London Cemetery & Crematorium

ronGary 300x201 A report of the Societys visit to the City of London Cemetery & CrematoriumWithin the cemetery are 7 miles of roads, 600,000 internments, not including the re-interred remains from the burial grounds of 38 historic City Churches . The grounds are very well kept, with extensive gardens, including a 600-bed rose garden, which require 10 staff to maintain.

As the cemetery is becoming full, Gary explained the cemetery’s policy of reusing graves for modern burial. Families are contacted about existing graves (which are known to have depth for at least two more burials). For example, some of the older graves were dug to accomodate around twelve bodies, but may only have two bodies interred and this leaves space for modern burials. A marker is left on the existing grave to notify the public of the intention for planning further burials. On one gravestone we saw, the stone had been reversed in the ground, and the back side (now facing forward) was used to inscribe the name of the newer, additional occupant of the grave.

vigiland 209x300 A report of the Societys visit to the City of London Cemetery & Crematorium

Surprisingly, the cemetery also has a small cafe on the premises where one can have lunch or a cup of tea after a long trek around the grounds, something which our group happily took advantage of.

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