2020/2021 snippets


It’s a Census Year! By law (Census Act 1920), every household should have filled in the 2021 census with details of who was living or staying in the household on 21 March 2021. Although family historians love the census (if not the transcribers, sometimes spellings of personal and place names leave a lot to be desired – but we family historians have learned to take that into account); the reason for this decennial (every 10 years) survey is to help decide how to fund and manage public services. The object of the census was to gain information about the population as a whole. Luckily, it was decided that, by listing individuals wherever they happened to be on a single night, was the most efficient way to count everybody once, and nobody twice – although, I’m sure if you ask, you will find family historians who have found a few of their kith and kin listed twice, especially those st(r)aying away from home on the night in question! The first census in the UK was taken in 1801. However, the first were just numeric data and it wasn’t until 1841 that the information collected began to look similar to that we filled in recently. If you come along to one of our family history sessions, or open days (as soon as we are able to hold them within Covid restrictions), you are sure to be shown the 1841-1911 censuses to track down individuals and find details of families. We are also aware of the problems with spellings and other errors and can guide you through your searches. As a family history society, we are eagerly awaiting the 1921 census. This is due out in 2022 as, again by law, the information collected cannot be made public for 100 years. It will be made available online via Find My Past; the index will be free to search, but, the images will cost per view. The 1921 is a significant census as the 1931 was lost during the Blitz and there was no 1941 taken due to the War. A National Register was compiled in 1939 that listed the personal details of every civilian (i.e. nomilitary personnel) in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It was used to coordinate the home-front war effort in issuing identity cards, organising rationing etc. The censuses and Register all form part of the sources used when we help with your family tree research; finding names, relationships, where people are from, where they live, what they did for a living etc.


The census is also a wonderful snapshot of days gone by in occupations.

Here are some jobs from the 1921 census:

Hayward of the manor – looks after hedges and fences

Penstock keeper – maintains drainage sluices

Fat lad – greases wagon wheels

Muffin maker (otherwise a jiggerer) – makes small plates (crockery)

Cosaque maker – maker of Christmas Crackers

Cattle floater – drove a low horse-drawn wagon used for transporting cattle

Pole shifter – moved the pole on electric trams from one overhead wire to another

Dandy rover – part of the silk thread process

I wonder if our App Developer, Coffee Barista, Life Coach, Web Designer, Biodiversity & Climate Policy Advisor, Cyber Security Defence Analyst, and Digital Fundraising Officer titles will seem as odd in 100 years’ time?


RESEARCH SESSIONS These will restart as soon as we are able to attend the venues. In the meantime our researchers are working hard on all the queries we receive from those who contact us.


During the war, our member was living in a country lane. As the children living in the lane gathered to play in the field opposite their houses, they chatted about hearing their parents talking about celebrating Bonfire Night with fires and cooking potatoes in the fire.  They thought it very unfair and decided to celebrate themselves. So, in secret, they gathered firewood and potatoes. On the evening of the 5th November they gathered in the field and lit their fire ready to bake their potatoes.  As the fire got underway they heard the approach of a fire engine followed by the Police and Air Raid Wardens.  The fire was quickly put out and the children scolded. Sadly, for our member, his father was a fireman on the fire engine. To our member’s embarrassment, he was put over his father’s knee and spanked in front of everyone.


Another member remembers enjoying a street party to celebrate VE Day. The women, who eked out their rations to put on great spread, supplied all the food.

They remember that although fruit from abroad had not been available during the war, yet there were banana sandwiches to enjoy – however, our member’s mother had made them from mashed parsnips with butter and flavouring.  Sweets were rationed but there were sweets for everyone, her mother made peppermint creams made from powdered milk and flavoured with peppermint essence, and fudge made from honey. Sugar was on ration so all the cakes were sweetened with her fathers honey.  It was a great party.

A member’s memory from the WW2.

Her parents belonged to an Entertainment Society as stage manager and wardrobe mistress, she was taken along with them and as a dancer herself she performed as quite a young girl to entertain the troops during the war, both British and American troops. She remembers traveling to the camps in the back of army lorries.  They were treated to a meal in the Sergeants Mess a great treat during rationing times. The men who were missing their own children made a fuss of the young ones and gave them chocolate a rare treat as sweets were rationed.  Performing was not always easy as the stages were often created specially for the occasion.  Our member remembers one stage sloped slightly forwards and was covered in lino. The dance was a tap dance their shoes had metal plates on them to make the tapping sound. They found themselves slowly sliding forward on the sloping and lino surface.  Another stage was created from crates covered in boards. Her dance was a Dutch Clog dance with a lot of stamping in time with the music. She felt the crates moving below her as she danced. At the end of the war a big concert was arranged to celebrate in the local Town Hall.  We thank her for sharing her memories with us.

All about my 3 times great grandfather WILLIAM SMITH 1790 – 1864

When sitting in the Archives Room of Kirkwall Library in Orkney waiting for a parish register to be brought to me I noted a book on the shelf of court cases.

I took the book down and read through it. I was surprised to find my 3 times great grandfather William SMITH listed in them.  I then turned to the newspapers reports on the Sheriff’s Court and found some very interesting and amusing tales about my William SMITH

William SMITH was taken to court for late payment of his rent.  As he could not pay they ordered that some of his possessions be taken in lieu of rent.  A date was agreed for the bailiffs to attend.  On the appointed day an inventory was made of the contents of the croft and animals.  Even the pots and pan, beds and seats were listed.  It made interesting reading of a way of life in those distant times.  When it came to the time to remove items William told them the contents of the croft were not his but belonged to another. They turned to the animals as being the most valuable. There were several cows. William claimed only the very old cow was his, asked who the others belong to he named various people.  They turned then to the horses, again he claimed only the very old one was his, again naming others as the owners.  The bailiffs returned to court and gave their report that only two elderly animals had been removed.   When asked about the ownership of the other animals. They gave a list of the owners.  They turned out to be his wife and several of his young sons.

On another occasion he was ordered to pay or have a crop of barley taken in lieu.  A date was agreed for the crop to be taken.  When they arrived the crop was gone.  William had worked all night harvesting it and hiding it away.

I would not have know these stories about my loveable rogue of an ancestor if I had not looked at the court records and followed it up by reading the stories in the newspapers.   You never know where your family history might lead you.

… but who are they?

I was delighted when a distant cousin offered me some photos she had inherited. When they arrived I unpacked the box-full with great anticipation. They had been handed down from my 2nd Great Aunt Rose (one of my Great Grandmother’s sisters). They were a delight. A whole series of photos stretching over the late 1800s and early 1900s. Great Aunt Rose had been born in 1887 and subsequently named Rose Jubilee. She was one of eight children born to Henry and Eliza Jane, and her siblings also had large families. What an opportunity to put faces to names and add to my family tree! Except … many of the photos had no captions and I had no idea who they were, whether they were family or friends, or when and where they were taken. If you have a box of old photos (or a computer drive of digitals) perhaps being ‘locked down’, isolating or in a bubble with other family members, or keeping in touch online, there is an opportunity to get them identified and labelled for future generations to enjoy.

It is so good to know many more people are now having their vaccinations. It is so sad to see so many not taking the spreading of the virus seriously. We do all need to work together to get through this difficult time. As a family historian I look back at how things worked in the past for our ancestors. They overcame the various difficulties they were faced with. As I am sure we will, and then we can look forward to seeing our families and friends and enjoying our social activities.


I have been looking at the many ways the churches are helping at this difficult time. Looking back in time the church was so important to the community they served. They were responsible for so much that the government deals with now. If you were not a member of a church you had very little support or help of any kind. My thoughts this month turn to what in fact I dealt with as a magistrate in the family courts; the maintenance of children. It is such a subject that I would like to share with you. It comes from a document given to me. My husband and I are often given documents that might interest us. I would like to share it with you this month.

ILLEGITIMATE CHILDREN and their support. The parish would help an unmarried mother, but the preference was to trace the father and get him to pay, the money probably went to the parish to help cover the cost of supporting illegitimate children. They held special meetings to decide on the father and how much he should pay. They were called ‘Bond of a Child’ meetings and a report would be given of their findings. I was amused to see the father was called the ‘Bounder’. The Church Warden would lead the investigations, and the Overseers of the Poor would make the judgement finding the man as the father and deciding on what he should pay.

20 Sep 1755 Farmer Timothy BOOTH of Outwell was the Bounder. The mother was Mary SNEATH of Upwell. The Church Warden Edward GODFREY. He was bound to pay £40.

The Overseer of the Poor William WILES & Thomas HORN

29 Oct 1755 Bounder John HOTON of Outwell. Mother Jane SAUNDERS of Outwell £40

Church Warden Edward GODFREY. Overseer William WILES & Thomas HORN

3 Aug 1779 Bounder William EDWARDS of Fordham. Mother Elizabeth GRIMWOOD of Upwell £40. Church Warden Richard WATKINSON. Overseer Robert TIALER & Robert SMART

18 Feb 1792 Bounder Thomas HORN of Welney. Mother Elizabeth BARROW of Welney £40

Church Warden Thomas WRIGHT. Overseer John COLE & John SANDERS

26 Oct 1801 Bounder Zecharah ASHING of Leverington. Mother Elizabeth OSBORN of Upwell £50 Church Warden Richard WATKINSON of Upwell. Overseer John ASKLAND & James HALES

2 Oct 1802 Bounder Thomas DAM a Yeoman of Upwell. Mother Hannah DARKIN a pauper of Upwell £50 Church Warden Richard WATKINSON. Overseer William ELMER & Thomas HAWKINS

17 Mar 1790 Bounder Henry TROWER a farmer of Upwell. Mother Ann CALVERT of Upwell. £100. Church Warden Thomas WRIGHT. Overseer Joseph MARSHALL

18 Mar 1790 Bounder Unica MELBOURN farmer of Elm. Mother Sarah CHRISTMAS of Upwell £40 Church Warden Thomas WRIGHT. Overseer Joseph COLE & Joseph MARSHALL

I have a list of 18, these are just a few of them. It would be interesting to know if any family members of those named are still living in the area.


Our researchers are still available and willing to give advice and answer your queries. In addition they are willing to research your family history for you, we just need a few details. If you are a member they give their research services free. It is well worth the year subscription. One of our researchers has been helping a lady and researched her family back to the late 1690’s it was interesting to know one had been wounded and awarded the wounded strip to wear on his uniform. If you would like help researching your family just give Bridget Hunter a call on 01945 587723.

As soon as we are able we will restart our monthly meetings with interesting speakers and our computer research sessions.


Message from Honorary Vice-President: Bridget Hunter

11 May 2020.


As I write this we are in lockdown because of the coronavirus.  Sadly all our exciting plans are on hold.  Our MONTHLY MEETINGS are not happening until further notice.  Our RESEARCH SESSIONS are also on hold until we get the all clear to restart. Our exciting and anticipated FAMILY and LOCAL HISTORY DAY had to be postponed and we hope to hold it in September in Wisbech Library.

But in this quiet time our members have been able to get on with research projects, not only for themselves but also for others who have requested help.

Our chairman has been busy and found herself some more distant cousins.

One of our researchers has been busy researching a family for a lady who knew little about her family.  She has been able to get quite a long way back on both sides of her family with a complication of first cousins marrying, also of a second marriage which was against canon law as it was to his dead wife’s sister.

While we listened and watched the VE day CELEBRATIONS so many memories were being shared. Many never told before. Which reminded me of what we tell people new to family history. Start by asking your elderly relations for their memories.   Sadly most people do not start until they retire and those precious memories are lost.  It is those memories that put flesh on the facts.

As a child I was close to my grandparents and loved to hear their stories about their lives. I remember those stories and add them to the fabric of my family research.

My grandmother was the eldest of 10 children and had to help run the house, the kitchen was the hub of the house and was very large she told me it took 17 buckets of water to wash the floor.  Her father was a very strict chapel man. Her mother was constantly with child and took to the bottle. Their farm was well away from the village, she had an arrangement with the farm workers to bring her bottles of drink and hide them under the rhubarb leaves, where she left the empties so her husband would not find them.  Another time when he had stormed off in a temper she decided to hit back.  She sent the children out to look for him.  She then lit lamps in all the windows and set fire to the doormat so the house looked to be on fire.  Thomas her husband came rushing back he started to search for her without luck after some time he found the well lid off, knowing he could do nothing till morning, he decided to go and rest until daylight.  It was there he found her fast asleep in bed.  There are so many stories I am able to recall which makes my family history come to life.  We all look forward to hear your stories and what your research has brought during this shut down at our next meeting and/or research sessions.

So PLEASE don’t just wait for the next anniversary to get your elderly relatives to share their memories with you.  Their lives were often very different to the ones we live now.

For information or queries about any of the above please call Bridget 01945 587723

Other Recent Meeting Reports

2022 Programme

27 JANUARY Steve Manning Researching through newspapers 24 FEBRUARY Kevin Rodgers Octagon Church 24 MARCH MEMBERS MEETING Heirloom Pieces – Toys & Games from your

September 2021 AGM

We were back, meeting together in Wisbech Library for our AGM.

October 2021 meeting

Our October meeting was an informative and entertaining trip through the Wisbech Pageants of yesteryear, specifically 1929, 1949 and 1994. All years were illustrated, plus