News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. Who Do You Think You Are? Sunetra Sarker

    Tonight actress Sunetra Sarker traces her Indian and Bangladesh roots, finding along the way that her family were champions of education for both men and women. She also learns about their experience during the war of independence in Bangladesh in 1971.

  2. Who Do You Think You Are? Warwick Davies

    On BBC1 tomorrow [15th February] at 8pm the 8th episode of the series features the family History of Warwick Davies.  “Actor Warwick Davis owes his big break aged 11 to his paternal grandmother Edith, who heard a radio ad ‘looking for short people to appear in Return of the Jedi’. Warwick takes a non-judgemental approach as he researches the family line stretching back from Edith, finding humanity and humour in some uncomfortable stories. On his maternal side, Warwick is equally open-minded when he finds out about his three-times-great-grandfather – a postman who lived a double life”.

  3. Family Reunions

    Many family historians like to plan large family reunions, getting together people descended from different branches of the same family.  Yesterday the BBC reported on a gathering of over 500 people who got together for the Ren family reunion in Shishe, China. A photograph can be seen on the BBC website of all 500 taken by Zhang Liangzong. He told the BBC that the Ren family, which originates from the village, can be traced back 851 years, but their family tree had not been updated for more than eight decades. Village elders recently began updating the family tree records and managed to track down at least 2,000 living descendants spanning seven generations. More on this story can be found on the BBC’s website.

  4. Rugby Union 6 Nations

    The 6 Nations championship kicks off on Saturday. The origins date back to 1871, when teams from England and Scotland played in the first-ever rugby union international match. In 1879, the Calcutta Cup was created as a prize for the winner of occasional matches played between teams from these two countries. In 1883 the Home International Championship, with teams from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, was created.

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    France officially joined in 1910 and it became known as the 5 Nations, although they were dropped between 1932-1946. with Italy joining in 2000 it became the 6 nations. So aside from a break caused by the First and Second World Wars, the championship in some form has been played for over a 134 years.

    Whilst your ancestors may have played Rugby Union it was not until 1995 that it turned professional, so none could have made their living from playing. However, mention of your ancestors sporting life might be found in University alumni, school registers and of course newspapers.

  5. Who Do You Think You Are? Ian McKellen

    The new series continued last night and, if you have not seen it, do catch the repeat or watch it on BBC I Player. Last night’s episode was one of the best in the series so far and Ian Mckellen was a charming guide leading us through the story of his family history. Maybe only he can make reading newspaper clippings, a favourite devise in the series,  so enjoyable. Sir Ian discovered that he shared a passion for acting and campaigning with two of his ancestors. Finding along the way that his ancestor Robert Lowes made a vital contribution to the campaign for a half day Saturday that started in Manchester and spread to the rest of  the country. And it is because of that campaign that many of us now enjoy weekends without work.

  6. New Director of Education appointed at The Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies

    Our sister organisation is pleased to announce the appointment of Les Mitchinson as the Institute’s Director of Education.   Les will initially assume the role on a part-time basis with immediate effect. Les is a graduate of the Institute having gained the Higher Certificate in 2008 and the Diploma in Genealogy (DipGen) in 2009.   Les has also been a member of the IHGS Education Board since 2012 and a Course Tutor since 2010. Les is also the owner of LMentary Family History and Education, and has a portfolio of professional development courses ranging from beginner through to Diploma in Genealogy.   A number of LMentary students have successfully attained the IHGS Higher Certificate and IHGS Diploma in Genealogy awards.   We look forward to a long and successful partnership with Les.

  7. Burial in Woollen

    Family history research can often raise questions, not just who was our ancestor! Searching in parish registers we can find terms we are unfamiliar with. For example, have you ever seen the word affidavit in a burial register and wondered what it meant?

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    Following the Restoration, Britain’s sheep farmers were producing more wool than was being used and so to address the problem and boost the wool trade, in 1666 the first Act ordering that all bodies had to be buried in a shroud made of woollen cloth was passed.  In 1678 a second Act was passed with more stringent regulations, ordering an affidavit signed by a magistrate to be produced to confirm that a burial had met the necessary requirements. In 1680 a concession was made allowing the affidavit to be signed by a minister. Richer people often chose to flaunt their wealth by ignoring the regulation and choosing to pay the fine for non-compliance.  The fine was in the sum of £5, of which 50% was paid to the informant and the balance to the poor.

    So even the word affidavit in a parish register reveals another detail of how our ancestors lived.

  8. Bank Holidays

    We are all now back at work after the New Year’s bank holiday (those of us who were lucky enough not to have to work them that is!). However, our ancestors did not enjoy the same break from work. It was not until 1974 that New Year’s day became a bank holiday in England. It had been recognised in Scotland since 1871.  Regarding set holidays more generally, before 1834 the Bank of England observed 33 saints’ days and religious festivals as holidays. In 1834 the number of bank holidays was set by the Bank of England at only four being May Day, 1st November (All Saints’ Day), Good Friday and Christmas Day.  In 1871 the first parliamentary legislation was introduced which made them official and it settled on Easter Monday, Whit Sunday, the first Monday in  August, and Boxing Day as official bank holidays. This was alongside Good Friday and Christmas Day which were common law holidays. In 1978 the first Monday in May in the rest of the UK, and the final Monday of May in Scotland was also included with the bank holidays.

  9. The misdemeanours of the Kerry family of Suffolk

    Family history research in the nineteenth century is usually based on General Registration certificates of birth, marriage and death, together with the decennial census returns enumerated from 1841 onwards.  But newspaper records can help fill in fascinating details about our ancestors’ lives, bringing them alive in a way that few other records can.

    One such example is with the Kerry family of Suffolk.  Genealogical sources had revealed them in census returns, GRO records and parish registers.  Dennis Kerry was baptised in Wattisfield in 1796, and lived most of his life in the village of Badwell Ash, in North Suffolk.  He and his sons were consistently recorded as agricultural labourers, as was the majority of the rural population at the time.  They did not leave wills, and it is often difficult to find out more about our normal, working ancestors.

    However, here we were aided by the digitised newspaper collection, which included the Suffolk publications The Bury and Norwich Post as well as The Suffolk Chronicle.  These newspapers included information on family notices of birth, marriage and death, local tradesmen’s adverts, as well as records of the local petty and quarter sessions.

    The reports in the local newspaper made for intriguing reading.  Dennis Kerry married his wife Ann Makins in 1820, but in 1830 he was charged with abandoning her.  Dennis was recorded in The Suffolk Chronicle of 23rd October 1830 as being committed to the Bury St Edmunds Gaol, for leaving his wife and family, thus making her chargeable to the parish.

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    Parish registers indicate that Dennis quickly returned to his wife, and they continued baptising children at Badwell Ash until the year 1839.

    Dennis and his family appear in later newspapers, for a variety of reasons.  The Suffolk Chronicle of 12th January 1861, showed that he was convicted to ten days hard labour at the Ixworth Petty Sessions for steeling turnips.

    2In 1873 Dennis and his wife Ann were called as witnesses to a theft of money, as recorded in the Bury and Norwich Post.  Two years later, in 1875, their son James, and grandson John Kerry, were convicted together of stealing “two ash poles”.  This was again recorded in the Bury and Norwich Post.3

    This newspaper record gives valuable information about who the Kerrys were working for, in a way that few other records do.  It is interesting to find that the son was let off, and the father given 14 days hard labour.  Young John would have been 17 at this time, and the court clearly felt that his father had led him astray.

    Newspaper entries relating to the Kerry family covered many decades and several generations of the same family, finding reference to them from the 1830s onwards.  Whilst Dennis was convicted of leaving his wife, he clearly returned to the parish of Badwell Ash, where he and Ann were witnesses to a theft in later decades.  Dennis himself stole some turnips in the 1860s, perhaps to help feed his family, whilst his son and grandson later stole wooden poles from their employer.  An interesting investigation indeed.

  10. A 17th Century Mince Pie Recipe

    Mince pies were once quite different from those we know of today. Originally filled with meat, such as lamb, goose or beef, they were larger than today’s and were  oval in shape to represent the manger that Jesus slept in. A tradition has it that if you eat a mince pie on every day of the twelve days of Christmas, you will have twelve months of happiness. Here’s a recipe for you to try, that your ancestor might once have used.a

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