Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: Z is for Zachariah Hellier

Zachariah HELLIER is the latest addition to my family tree.  Well, I say 'addition' - he was born in around 1790, and married my paternal great great great great grandmother in 1852, so the only way he is an 'addition' is because I have only just found him.

Zachariah is described as a millwright in the 1861 census, living in St Saviour's Place, Ottery St Mary, Devon with my ancestress, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth's granddaughter, Anna Maria HAYWOOD.  The same house he lived in with his first wife, Susana - and the same house he lived in with his two younger sisters, Mary and Johanna.  I wonder if he was born there and raised there?

Is he a familiar name to anybody out there?

Monday, 29 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: Y is for Yoke

You may not think that a yoke is a very genealogical thing - but I have linked it to my ancestors, who were
most of them agricultural labourers, and were therefore probably very familiar with yokes...right down to my own grandmother, who could remember using one to go and fetch the milk (and this was in the early 1900s).

A yoke was usually used with other animals, though, such as oxen, horses, donkeys, mules - and even water buffalo (although you don't see too many of them in the southwest of England!).  Bow yokes, withers yokes, and head yokes have all been used with various animals - a yoke can even be used with a single creature.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: X is for eXtreme Genealogy

OK, so I cheated a little bit,and today's post is the same one as last year's "X is for..." - because, after all, X is a pretty hard letter!  The original post can be found here, but here it is again:

You've heard of extreme sports? even extreme ironing? so how about extreme genealogy?  The BBC defines Extreme Genealogy as the art and skill of DNA testing:

The firm is the brainchild of the Oxford University geneticist Bryan Sykes, who [several] years ago published research showing that everyone of European extraction could trace their ancestry back to one of seven women who lived 40,000 years ago. Such was the demand from the public to know which of the "seven daughters of Eve" they were descended from, Professor Sykes spotted a business opportunity."

  • Europeans mostly come from one of seven women
  • About half are from Helena, who lived in the Pyrenees 20,000 years ago
  • Among non-Europeans, 29 such clans have been identified
  • These include 12 among those of African origin
  • Four among Native Americans
  • And nine among Japanese

Friday, 26 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: W is for Wessex and Wyverns

You may have heard of Wessex before, and various companies in the southwest of England are trying to resurrect it, mostly by using the word in their company names.

Wessex was the last English kingdom before all the kingdoms were joined together.  Its last king was Alfred (yes, you probably have heard of him).  Alfred (the Great) is remembered as having something to do with having burned the cakes he was supposed to be watching, but he was much more than that.  He reorganised Wessex and was at the forefront of a revival of scholarship and education.  He helped to translate several Latin texts into English.

As a result of these literary efforts and the political dominance of Wessex, the West Saxon dialect of this period became the standard written form of Old English for the rest of the Anglo-Saxon period and beyond. [Wikipedia]

Wyvern: Although a wyvern may look like a dragon, it isn't really.  Dragons (in most cases) have four limbs, while wyverns only have two.  Mythicalrealm.com states this:
"There are many terms used to refer to dragons, and incorrect terminology is often applied. Wyvern, hydra, and firedrake, in fact completely different species, have all been mistakenly used."
"Wyverns, while close relatives of the dragon, have been argued as being not of the same order. In England they have been referred to as 'dragonets' because [they're] generally small in stature and basically appear to be adolescent dragons when in fact their body parts are fundamentally different."

The golden wyvern on a background of red is a symbol of Alfred’s Wessex.


Thursday, 25 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: V is for Verderer, Vert and Venison

A verderer (there were four per forest) was the officially-elected individual who looked after and administered the "vert and venison".  The 'vert' was described as "the trees and shrubs which bore green leaves and thus provided food and shelter for livestock" (The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History, David Hey).  The 'venison' was not just deer, it was all livestock.

The Verderer's Court of the Forest of Dean still meets to settle disputes, with records dating from the seventeenth century.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: U is for Up-and-down Husbandry

Up-and-down husbandry was also known as convertible husbandry - and has nothing to do with cars!  It was used in the 15th century and was revived in the 1930s.

This method of farming is really a method known by gardeners everywhere, and employed by most.  If you have an allotment, or smallholding, it makes sense to rotate the crops every year, because some pests and diseases will proliferate if the same crop is grown in the same area year after year.  (And crop rotation was used in Roman times).

Up-and-down husbandry alternated arable strips with grass crops.  Sometimes a field would stay 'under grass' for up to 10 years, or become grass permanently.  This enabled crops to be grown and livestock to be grazed (giving the arable land time to recover).

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: T is for Teasel (or Teazel)

Teasels were something I was very familiar with as a child; they were just another plant that was part of the surrounding countryside. They are tall and prickly, and in Europe are an important winter food source for birds.  However, in the US, they are not as welcome.

Teasels have been linked with medicinal purposes, acting as:
  • Cure of Lyme disease
  • Antibiotic
  • Improved circulation
  • Cure for warts

However, whether or not you believe in these (!), teasels had another use in the textile industry.  The teasel head was used as a comb for cleaning, aligning, and raising the nap on wool.  (The 'teased' the fibres!)

Although metal cards largely replaced them, nowadays there are still individuals who infinitely prefer to use teasels in their work, claiming they are more gentle than a metal comb.

"Production in the 17th and 18th centuries was localized, notably in the Cheddar area of Somerset, parts of Gloucestershire, and Essex." (The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History, David Hey)

Monday, 22 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: S is for Secretary Hand

I first met "Secretary Hand" when I was transcribing a 1700 census for Ottery St Mary (the transcription can be viewed here at GenUKI).

It was widespread in the British Isles during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and grew out of the Book Hand and the Court Hand.

Soon, it was used for businesses, government, and church - and then it became so common that it was taken up for personal use.
  

Looking at this sample (this is William Shakespeare's Will):
can you believe that Secretary Hand was introduced so as to provide a more legible style of handwriting? 

In genealogy/family history, you will most often see it when you are trying (desperately) to transcribe the Will of one of your ancestors.


Below is a graphic supplied by About.com, which shows the individual letters:

Saturday, 20 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: R is for Rebecca Riots

These riots began in 1839 and lasted until 1844, and took place in South Wales.  The name comes from the biblical passage about Rebekah's descendants "possessing the gates of those which hate them" (Genesis 24: 60), and related to the gates on the new turnpike roads: the protesters, dressed in women's clothing, wanted to remove them!

But why stop at gates? The protesters also revolted against the New Poor Law workhouses (which were apparently pretty revolting themselves, anyway) and any Church of England clergymen who demanded the payment of tithing.

Friday, 19 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: Q is for Quernstone

A piece of knowledge for you that is more historical than genealogical: the quern or quernstone was the forerunner of the millstone and was used for grinding corn (millstones were used more often in water-powered or wind-powered mills).

It is most frequently unearthed as part of an archaeological dig centered on Roman or Romano-British sites.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: P is for Plough Monday

Plough Monday, usually the Monday following 6 January, was the start of the agricultural year.  And, of course, any excuse for a party!


In NE England, a plough would be dragged around the town to raise funds for the parish (and if you refused to pay up, your front path would be ploughed up).  In the Scilly Isles, there would be cross-dressing, joking, drinking and revelry.  In Norfolk, Plough Pudding (a suet pudding with meat and onions) is cooked and eaten on Plough Monday.


Harrison Ainsworth, in his novel Mervyn Clitheroe, described it thus:
"The FOOL PLOUGH goes about: a pageant consisting of a number of sword dancers dragging a plough, with music; one, sometimes two, in very strange attire; the Bessy, in the grotesque habit of an old woman, and the Fool, almost covered with skins, a hairy cap on, and the tail of some animal hanging from his back. The office of one of these characters, in which he is very assiduous, is to go about rattling a box amongst the spectators of the dance, in which he receives their little donations."

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: O is for Ordeal

There were several types of ordeal to determine whether a person was guilty or not.  Prepare to be amazed!

1. Ordeal by fire - walking over hot ploughshares for a distance of 9 feet. Innocence determined by either total lack of injury, or if the injury was only festering after three days.

2. Ordeal by boiling water - suspect had to dip his hand into a pot of boiling water to retrieve a stone.  Innocence determined by whether or not the burns had healed in three days.

3.  Ordeal by cold water - suspect was submerged in a stream either in a barrel or with a millstone around his neck.  Innocence determined by whether or not he survived!

4.  Ordeal by cold water (witches only) - suspect is submerged as above, but sinks if guilty, floats if innocent.

5.  Ordeal by cross - accuser AND accused stand either side of a cross with their arms out horizontally.  The first one to lower his arms is the loser.

6.  Ordeal by ingestion - bread and cheese blessed by a priest were administered.  Guilty if the suspect choked.

7.  Ordeal by poison (Nigeria) - fed a poisonous bean.  If defendant vomited it up, they were innocent.

8.  Ordeal by boiling oil (India) - as #2, but both accuser AND accused had to dip their hands in boiling oil.  Whoever had uninjured hands afterwards was innocent.

9.  Ordeal by turf (Iceland) - suspect had to walk underneath a piece of turf.  If the turf fell on his head, he was guilty.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: N is for Nuncupative Will

Most genealogists are familiar with an ancestor's Last Will and Testament as a document written without commas (if written by a lawyer's clerk, as they mostly were) and full of interesting facts such as "I bequeath the six best horsehair chairs to my loving daughter Emily" or "I do not bequeath any monies to my son John who is parsimonious and will not give to the poor".  Written down well before the death of the person in a specific format.

But a nuncupative will is word of mouth only, and then testified to in a court of law by two or three witnesses.  (The writing-down part  is usually after the person is dead, but must be shortly after.)  Some U.S. states still allow this, as do England and Wales; military personnel on active duty are often permitted to do this

Monday, 15 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: M is for Mocavo

You may have heard of Mocavo, the great search engine for genealogists.  Why is it so special? you ask.  I'll tell you.  Ever searched for a surname and come up with some *really* unwanted results?  For instance, for this month's letter 'J' I wanted to talk about the occupation of Jagger.  So I searched for Jagger.  Oh dear.  Mick came up, and Bianca, and Jade - but also the song by Maroon 5, an article about the Rolling Stones' latest tour, Mick's style of parenting...and on it went.

Mocavo is different.  It searches ONLY genealogy sites.  It is especially good for North American genealogy sites - but I have noticed Australian sites, and even GenWestUK is in there! so its horizons are broadening.  Cliff Shaw, the creator of Mocavo, says:

"Mocavo.com has the capacity to index every single piece of free genealogy content found anywhere on the web, and will be growing by leaps and bounds in the coming months. We expect Mocavo.com to shortly offer all of the web’s free genealogy information, searchable and accessible to all – something that has never been done before. It’s set to become the go-to search engine for every family history enthusiast.”

There is a paid version (isn't there always?) which offers lots of tools as well as a basic genealogy search engine, and there is the capability to upload GEDCOMs and have it suggest ancestors to you, which makes it sound much more like a site.  But I haven't used these, so I cannot comment.  What I would suggest is that you head on over and take a look to see if you like it.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: L is for Lord of Misrule

Imagine you are a lowly servant in a mediaeval palace, castle, or manor house.  Christmas is coming - but during the twelve days of Christmas (from December 25 onwards) you are chosen by lot to be the Lord of Misrule (in Scotland, the Abbot of Unreason; in France, the Prince des Sots).

So, what does the Lord of Misrule do?  The Lord has "licence to organize boisterous activities and to make fun of his social superiors." [The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History, by David Hey]

Although the custom originates in Rome, with much overeating and drunkenness, and slaves being served at the feast by their masters, plus giving them orders, it was also observed in Britain.  It was abolished by Henry VIII in 1541, restored by Mary, then abolished again by Elizabeth I.

Friday, 12 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: K is for Knobstick Wedding

Heard of a "shotgun wedding", where a woman got pregnant out of wedlock, so the (supposed) father was forced to marry her? well, here is another version.

The "knobstick wedding" had exactly the same reasons behind it i.e. the reputed father having to marry a
pregnant-out-of-wedlock woman.  The 'knobstick' part is because these were the staves of office of the churchwardens who attended the wedding to make sure it took place.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: J is for Jagger

Many many people know of the famous rock star with 'Jagger' in his name, but only a little research shows the origin of this surname.  However, there are a couple of  variations:

1) A jagger was a peddler; the 'jag' referred to the pack on his back.

2) A jagger was a man who led packhorses; the 'jag' was the pack that the horse could carry on its back (probably coal).

And by the way: Joseph Jagger, the mill engineer, was the origin of the song "The Man Who Broke The Bank at Monte Carlo"...

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: I is for Indexing

So, you've heard about indexing at FamilySearch.org, but you're not sure you should try it, because you're not that comfortable with...it sounds too...you have to have been doing genealogy for over 30 years...I haven't got the time...it will be expensive...

Stop making excuses.  Because, actually, that's what they are.  You may think that they're more like reasons - and very reasonable reasons - and you will be pleasantly surprised to find they just don't apply.
  • You don't have to be a computer wizard
  • You don't have to be a genealogy guru
  • You just watched half an hour's worth of cartoons on the TV.  That's all the time you need to index
  • It's free
All you are doing is typing out somebody else's writing (two-finger typists are perfectly acceptable).  Your work gets checked - so you needn't worry that you will make horrific mistakes which will then go out into the world - and you will be giving back / paying it forward to people everywhere, because then the records you index will be available online for free.  You can fit it in around your busy schedule - even half an hour a week is great - and there's plenty of help every step of the way.

Try it!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: H is for Hue and Cry

Ever wondered where the phrase "hue and cry" came from? (Or did you already know - or think you knew?).  This became law in 1285.

A crime is committed.  A witness sees it being committed.
It is his responsibility to shout loudly (raise a hue
and cry), so that others could come and catch the criminal.  (If the criminal escaped over the parish boundary, it was the new parish who was responsible for catching him.)

If the witness failed to raise the hue, or failed to report the crime, they could be fined.

If you raised a false hue, you could also be fined.

Monday, 8 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: G is for Google Alerts

Google Alerts are something I have only just come across.  If you ask Google what they are, it says "Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your queries."   They add that Alerts are useful in:
  • monitoring a developing news story
  • keeping current on a competitor or industry
  • getting the latest on a celebrity or event
  • keeping tabs on your favorite sports teams
I would like to add that Google Alerts are useful in genealogy.  Say you search for "Obadiah Montague", and find a number of resulting useful websites.  If you make searching for Obadiah one of your Google Alerts, then every time there is something new about him (say, somebody uploads a newspaper article they have just found), you will get an email telling you so.  You can manage the frequency to once-a-day, or once-a-week, or 'as-it-happens' - and you can create up to 1000 Alerts.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: F is for Farthing

I can dimly remember farthings.  They went out of circulation on 31 December 1960, so although I was too tiny to have actually used them, there were still some lying around our house.  They were first minted in 1714.


A farthing is a quarter of a penny.  Well, actually, when the word originated, it meant a quarter of anything (farthing-land was about 30 acres), but came to be used for the quarter-penny.  When decimalisation took
over in this country, the new penny was the same size as the old farthing.

Even though a quarter of a penny sounds like a small amount, there were coins that were of even smaller value.

The third-farthing was minted for use in Malta.

Half-farthings and quarter-farthings were also minted for use in the colonies.  The half-farthing was also introduced to Britain and kept going for 25 years.

Friday, 5 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: E is for Engross

Aha! Got you! You thought you knew what 'engross' meant, didn't you?  The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as "to take or engage the whole attention of", with the example of "a mystery story that will engross readers all the way to the surprise ending".

But as it applies to genealogy (although I must confess to becoming engrossed when working on my family
tree), it has a different meaning.  Or two.

1) If there were lands/houses supporting two or more families, and then these houses and lands were gathered together and owned by one person, they were said to have been 'engrossed'.

2) If you were a calligrapher, you could 'engross' a legal document into formal script..  And if you remember pictures of monks doing calligraphic writing, they are always hunched over their desks.  Engrossed in engrossing?

Thursday, 4 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: D is for Directories

There are several types of Directory which can be immensely useful to the genealogist.  There are such records as Court Directories, Commercial Directories, Trades Directories, and Street Directories (and probably others).  The most well-known are those produced by Kelly and Pigot; the area covered ranges from one city (Plymouth) to several counties which are next to each other, such as Cornwall and Devon.

However, directories do not cover every single household.  "Labourers were never included and only a small proportion of craftsmen - those usually in rural villages.  Self-employed tradesmen appear in large numbers
but are not necessarily all covered...In villages, the squire, parson, farmers, graziers, innkeepers and blacksmiths are regularly included." (The Dictionary of Genealogy, Terrick Fitzhugh).

One of the earliest directories (in 1677) was "A Collection of the Names of the Merchants living in and about the City of London: Very Useful and Necessary."

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: C is for Chatham Chest

Another 'popular name for' something.

This time, it derives from the location it came from i.e. Chatham in Kent.  The Navy Board had their offices there, and administered a fund for wounded sailors.  This fund
originated in the late sixteenth century, and lasted until the early 1800s, when it was transferred to the Royal Hospital at Greenwich.

Incidentally, this was not a generous bequest by some monied landowner - it was collected by deductions from pay!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: B is for Bawdy Court

Yes, what you're probably thinking is what it was.  'Bawdy Courts' were another name for the ecclesiastical courts, which were so called because they often dealt with divorce and/or immorality.

The ecclesiastical courts, divided into Bishops' Courts and Archdeacons' Courts, were set up in Norman times and their records exist from the 15th century.  They dealt with all sorts of things, from heresy to perjury
via whether or not you behaved yourself in church.  Punishments ranged from fines to excommunication.

These records also included descriptions of the witnesses - not just the usual name and address, but also where they had lived, right back to their place of birth.


Monday, 1 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013: A is for Arlee

A is for April, and the A-Z Challenge has arrived! But A is also for Arlee Bird, without whom the Challenge would not exist, so I am HUGELY grateful. The Challenge is to create a blog post every day during April, using a different letter of the alphabet as your theme for that day's post.

A-Z Challenge
Readers of my blog will remember the post I wrote about having missed the Challenge in 2011.  That particular post is so popular, it still pops up in my "You might also be interested in..." section at the foot of this
page, with 669 views.  I wish people would instead read some of my other posts which are about things more interesting than failure!

Last year (2012) I participated in the Challenge and, as I am principally interested in genealogy and family history, each of my daily A - Z posts were about genealogical things; and I propose to do the same this year.   Last year, with about a dozen views per post, I wrote about topics as diverse as Englishry (many bloggers found this fascinating), Hiring Fairs, Scanfest, and Time Immemorial (which had 652 views as opposed to the usual dozen!).  This year, the timetable runs like this:

Week One:
April 01, Monday - Letter "A"
April 02, Tuesday - Letter "B"
April 03, Wednesday - Letter "C"
April 04, Thursday - Letter "D"
April 05, Friday - Letter "E"
April 06, Saturday - Letter "F"
Week Two:
April 07, Sunday - BREAK
April 08, Monday - Letter "G"
April 09, Tuesday - Letter "H"
April 10, Wednesday - Letter "I"
April 11, Thursday - Letter "J"
April 12, Friday - Letter "K"
April 13, Saturday - Letter "L"
Week Three:
April 14, Sunday - BREAK
April 15, Monday - Letter "M"
April 16, Tuesday - Letter "N"
April 17, Wednesday - Letter "O"
April 18, Thursday - Letter "P"
April 19, Friday - Letter "Q"
April 20, Saturday - Letter "R"
Week Four:
April 21, Sunday - BREAK
April 22, Monday - Letter "S"
April 23, Tuesday - Letter "T"
April 24, Wednesday - Letter "U"
April 25, Thursday - Letter "V"
April 26, Friday - Letter "W"
April 27, Saturday - Letter "X"
Week Five:
April 28, Sunday - BREAK
April 29, Monday - Letter "Y"
April 30, Tuesday - Letter "Z"


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