Previous Year's Meetings
Listed here are the transcripts of meetings from previous years. You can select a date on the left to go to that year. Not all months have transcripts and some years are in January to December order and some December to January order.
2016

January 2016

'Back to Basics’ - With help for the beginner plus a refresher for the more experienced - Susanah Farmer

Festive Member MeetingAn audience of 26 including a new member and a visitor attended the first meeting of the New Year. Members were told about future displays that the society will be involved in: at Walpole St Peters, the Heritage weekend (Leverington and St Augustine’s); in order for this to happen Bridget would like to have copes of photographs of weddings that took place during the two world wars (not necessarily weddings involving service people). If necessary Bridget can copy photographs but she does need information about the people involved (names, dates etc).

Our speaker for the evening was Susanah Farmer, who is a member of the society and is also Editor of Ag Lab. Susanah called her talk “Back to Basics” and its purpose was to encourage all of us to keep on researching our families by showing us the diverse ranges of information that are available to us. She hoped to encourage beginners to make a start and the more experienced to consider alternative lines of enquiry. Susanah also said that she hoped to show that not everyone who does family history has to be an expert or even to have everything filed away tidily! She brought with her a (large) yellow archive box which held letters, photographs, certificates, invoices and other documents; she also had a file and a hard drive. The material in the box was often the starting point for a line of enquiry and Susanah pointed out that it helped to be nosy as that’s what family history is. She also said that she picks up her research at different points often sparked by some other enquiry.

People start researching the family tree for a variety of reasons and the form that the research takes is equally varied: some people try to go back as far as possible; some try to find everyone on their tree however distantly related; some people try to locate all living relatives; others are interested in location and social history.

Susanah knew that her mother had started a family history by asking family members to write down information: this information was of variable quality but there was one lengthy letter from he r grandfather that contained information that revealed a complicated family life with some unconventional aspects. Some family members are still unaware of the relationships and Susanah urged us to be aware that some information is very sensitive and it may never be possible to determine the truth. As Susanah put it: more dotted lines on the family tree and another item on the “To do list”.

Susanah illustrated typical problems that people encounter when using transcribed records by referring to a search for a relative she knew as “Ellen Rosetta Damms”. The 1881 census was originally made available as a CD after it had been transcribed in America; Susanah could not find the family in the Downham Market area but eventually found the name had been transcribed as Danius. In a later census the girl is recorded as Rosie which also made searching more difficult. Sometimes you have to make educated guesses and then confirm the guess. Another member of that family appeared to have the forename Gately but after lots of research he turned out to have been born John David Damms (why did he change his name? another item for the “To do list”). Susanah also referred to her search for a George Davies whom she knew to be an Artillery Pensioner – this took a great deal of investigating and Susanah suggested “parking” research until another piece of evidence comes to light.

Different sources of information are increasingly available - newspapers can be a useful source of information and some of them are available online – these also come with a warning – it’s very easy to be sidetracked. Older newspapers are often useful for announcements and court cases and more recent papers (since the 1930s) may contain more gossipy information. Suasanah discovered that a family home had been destroyed in the very last air raid of the First World War and then a second family home had been destroyed in an air raid the Second World War.

Wills can provide information and can often be accessed through internet sites as well as telephone directories and some electoral register, some school records are now online. Try checking the neighbours on census records – sometimes you can work out how people came to know each other. Susanah also suggested checking the free access sites: Freecen, FreeBMD and Freereg and Family Search.

Have you tried a Google search for people or places? What about Facebook? and public family trees on sites such as Ancestry? Susanah has received photographs of her own family as a result of contacts through internet searches.

In conclusion Susanah said that she hoped she had given people the incentive to carry on researching; everyone will research in an individual way to realise that you will also have a “To do list” which will get longer and longer.

The audience thoroughly enjoyed Susanah’s talk which got everyone talking in the social time after the talk – lots of ideas were exchanged and I’m sure we all went away ready to look again at our family trees (and to create “To do lists”).

[Margaret Lake ]

February 2016

'Researching Military History ’ - Jonathan Farmer

The audience was entertained and informed by Jonathan Farmer who gave valuable insights into the ways in which it is possible to research military history. Jonathan prefaced his talk by outlining his credentials as a military historian; he served in the TA for 38 years and did a 4 ½ year stint at The National Archives as a researcher in Military Records, he then did a part –time Master’s degree on First World War Records at Birmingham University.

Jonathan told us that accessing records for the Second World War onwards requires contact with the MOD who will need proof of relationship so effectively we are only able to research the First World War. One of the major problems is that two thirds of the Great War records were destroyed (accidentally) by fire in the second world war.

Most people starting out on research may only have partial information to go on: possibly a name, a medal, a story or a photograph. Some people are lucky enough to be able to locate information using sites like Ancestry and Find My Past but bearing in mind the problem with missing records and the fact that only those serving overseas were entitled to medal there problems to be overcome.

Photographs of servicemen vary in quality but Jonathan gave some very useful tips about looking for clues. He suggested that we learn to identify three of the cap badges (Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers and Army Service Corps) as those three regiments accounted for a large percentage of the army. If at all possible try to identify the battalion the serviceman served in as daily war diaries were kept by the adjutant of each battalion and those records are available The National Archives.

It is sometimes possible to identify more information that is specific to particular regiments but there are some general pieces of information that can be “read” in a good photograph. Chevrons on a lower sleeve identify the number of years that someone served. The first available was a red chevron for the British Expeditionary Force in 1914/15 and the subsequent years were blue so a photograph showing 3 chevrons would have to be taken in 1916 or later. Wound stripes were placed on the left sleeve and were made of 2 inch long gold Russian braid; the rules about who was entitled to these were continually tightened to prevent misuse. Good conduct stripes were awarded to privates and lance corporals and can be identified.

If you know your relative was awarded medals you may be able to access Medal Index Cards (available on Find My Past and Ancestry) – again two thirds of these were destroyed in the 1940 Blitz. The MIC will give name, Regiment, Service Number and information about specific medals as well as (up to 1916) the embarkation date which was the day that the soldier became entitled to a medal. Jonathan suggested the web site “The long, long trail” as good source of information about regiments.

The electoral register is a further source of information for the immediate post-war years as demobilisation took place into 1920 and absent voters are noted together with their regiment and service number.

Jonathan illustrated his talk with photographs and images and showed the audience how to identify different points and then took questions at the end of his talk. Once again we were treated to have a well- researched, informative and entertaining talk.

[Margaret Lake ]

March 2016

Members' Meeting

In a break with tradition we were entertained by two speakers, Audrie Reed and Nina Green, who came from Cambridge to encourage members to consider using “scrapbooking” for presenting family histories. we also had an exhibition of diufferent ways in which individual members have created their own family trees. These included embroidered and quilted panels of trees as well as scrapbooks and albums and a collage of a “This your life” family tree.

Audrie is a producer who creates film and photographic records for people and Nina runs a crafting materials business. They jointly talked about ways of illustrating your family tree and how to showcase your materials.

They prefaced the talk with inviting us to think about what we will do with all the material we have collected and what our children and grandchildren will do with all the material we leave them.

Nina spoke about the background to scrapbooking and how it has developed from the original Victorian way of creating books of scraps, pictures, embroidery and other materials which were kept together in commonplace books. Friendship albums were with quotations and notes were a development of this and people started collecting additional materials especially after photographs became widely available. Scrapbooking is an American term that covers the collecting and presentation of photographs and materials relating to a person or an event and then presenting the material in an attractive way.

Essentially it is a way of keeping everything together and making it accessible and relevant. A scrapbook could be a whole family tree or an individual’s life or indeed, a specific event such as a wedding. The important thing is to decide on the focus for the scrapbook: is it to be a whole tree, an individual or the mother’s family or the father’s family? In order to ensure that the scrapbook survives make sure that the materials(papers, adhesives, decorative items) used are of archival quality, photo-safe, acid-free and lignum-free. It is also important to make sure that the album can grow so start with a ring binder or similar. The usual scrapbooking size is 12” square as this is the US standard and there are lots of suitable materials available in this size.

One of the things that distinguishes scrapbooking from a photograph album is “journaling” which is the addition of written or printed materials to enhance or explain the materials. This of course makes it particularly suitable for creating family histories. Again the advice is to ensure that the ink or pen used is acid free and archival quality.

Audrie and Nina both emphasised the importance of being organised about your materials and suggested different starting points for a scrapbook. They also recommended being really organised about materials and suggested starting a resource file and making sure that photographs are kept with vital information about who, what, where and when recorded on them. Audrie suggested using scans of photographs rather than originals as it is then possible to crop or resize; it is often possible to find new information on scans of older photographs as many of the older 20th century photographs were printed up very small and a scan often allows you to enlarge the original image.

Various suggestions were made about using pocket storage for photographs, laminating newspaper cuttings and using additional materials to enhance and embellish the materials you have collected. They suggested using the internet to search for “scrapbooking family trees” for lots of ideas.

Members enjoyed the presentation and the opportunity to look at different ways of presenting family history from the speakers and other members. There was an opportunity to look at and buy a range of different materials that can be used in scrapbooking and certainly several members went home determined to start scrapbooking their family trees.

[Margaret Lake ]

April 2016

'150 years of rural change’ - Bryan Howling

Bryan started his talk by explaining that he would be talking about changes in the rural way of life during five reigns: from the accession of Victoria in 1837 to the death of George VI in 1952. This, he maintained was the period of the greatest change in rural life as it saw the transition from cereals being harvested by scythe to mechanical harvesting and vast changes in transport and communications and covered the essential changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution. In 1831 the population was 13.9 million and in 1901 it was 32.5 million - huge industrial and agricultural change allowed this increase to happen. He would do this by referring to his own village Terrington St. Clements and through photographs and records that related to the: Overseer of the Poor; Highway Surveyor; Tithes; Dike Reeves; Land Rate; Local Acts

Local records, especially from the Victorian era give lots of information about the way in which the village was run and organised and shed light on the ways in which taxes and rates were spent to improve life. The Overseer accounts show how money was spent to assist people in need through illness or accident as well as in childbirth. It is often perceived that the Poor Law of 1834 was in some way detrimental but the local accounts show that it could be a positive force for good and assisted people in time of need.

The Vestry records (which were the records of the parish administration) are an additional source of material and as Terrington St. Clement had a school there are lots of references to the school. The Vestry records show that some local taxes were paid in money and some in kind, thus, for example, some people paid taxes in the form of horse or horse and cart for two days for carting gravel from Tottenhill to maintain the roads which were metalled from the 19th century onwards.

Enclosure at the end of the 18th century and into the 19th century made enormous differences to the life of local people and there are references in records to the use of stock marks for the identification of animals which were grazed on common land. The Dike Reeves were responsible for drainage, ditches, hedges and bridges and local taxes paid for these so the records lie within the Vestry records.

Bryan then went on to talk about information that could be found in a range of materials such as the apprentice indenture for a boy from Terrington who was apprenticed to a periwig maker and records about brick making (many local farms had brick pits).

He then went on to talk about changes in agriculture and the old way of harvesting and cutting the grain, separating the straw and grain, building and thatching straw stacks as the straw was essential for animal bedding and for covering potato graves(clamps). Bryan was able to show photographs of all these processes. Change started to come about with the invention of steam power and Frederick Savage of Kings Lynn who is well known for his fairground rides revolutionised harvesting with a range of steam driven machinery. Bryan’s great great grandfather bought portable engine number 4.

In the Victorian era every village had its own grain mill and Bryan showed several photographs of different mills that once existed in Terrington and the surrounding villages. He also showed the weights of the various grain sacks that workers would have been expected to lift: wheat 18st (114kg), barley 16st (101kg) and oats 12st (76kg).

Bryan was able to show photographs of land work which demonstrate how much the work has changed over the years. The only occupation that seems similar is strawberry picking although the pickers in former times were completely covered with hooded bonnets covering the napes of their necks and the more modern pickers were in sleeveless tops and shorts!. There were photographs of potato pickers with willow baskets that were filled by the women and then tipped into larger baskets that the men then shot into the carts. Hay making was shown with the hay then being compressed into bales for transport to urban centres as horse feed. Once tractors became the principal form of power on farms a further 1.5 million acres of land was released for food production over the period from 1939 to 1962 (rather than fodder production for 5 million horses).

Bryan referred to the changes in transport that allowed crops to be delivered to urban centres and of course the changes that the railways and then road transport brought about. Terrington was on the Midland and Great Northern Line and this allowed crops to be transported easily such as strawberries sent off to market in Sheffield and Leeds. Seed potatoes were brought down from Scotland on coasters and delivered to Sutton Bridge (and Wisbech) - unlike today there was no frost protection and it was not unheard of for the seed to be frosted on the way down!

Bryan also showed the different shops that each community would have supported. He showed photographs of the Marshland Stores, the butcher, baker, the harness maker, the drayman, the farrier all of whom were an essential part of rural life as well as the delivery carts that took vegetables, bread and meat to local homes.

There was reminder of Wisbech with a photograph of the Michaelmas Hiring Fair (the Statute Fair) and the girls standing on the Town Bridge and their boxes stacked beside them – what became of the girls who weren’t hired that day?

Bryan then went on to show photographs of Harry Ferguson whose 3 point linkage system arguably underpins all developments in agricultural engineering and he concluded by showing photographs of machines that have replaced horses and men on farms: pea viners, vegetable harvesters, silage harvester, combine harvester, sugar beet loader and an image of a computer printout that is now commonplace in modern tractor cabs.

The audience thoroughly enjoyed Bryan’s talk and there were lots of “Do you remember?” conversations in the tea break afterwards.

[Margaret Lake ]

July 2016

'The Victorian Child’ - Liz Carter

Liz opened her talk by saying that every one of us has a Victorian child in the family tree, possibly even three or four generations of children. She then outlined the material she planned to cover: mortality and survival; children at work and play; education and the workhouse.

The statistics relating to the death rate of children were truly horrifying: in the 1840’s 153 children per 1000 died within the first year of life and in the 1890’s this figure rose to 163 per 1000 because of epidemics. Between 1860 and 1870 half of all deaths of children under 5 were attributed to diphtheria, a disease which is no longer heard about as all children are inoculated against it. In the 1890’s half of all deaths of children under 5 in industrial areas was caused by TB – this disease was almost eradicated but is worryingly making a return in the modern world with some a strains being antibiotic resistant One of the most distressing statistics was the fact that in the 1900’s in Liverpool 507 children died per 1000 because of overcrowded living conditions in a very densely populated city, lack of sanitation and clean water, poor food and generally poor living conditions.

From research that has been done it is possible to identify the commonest causes of death in small children (apart from disease). The Isle of Ely Coroners records from the 1840’s contain evidence of all the following causes of death. These include: failure to thrive which is sometimes recorded as atrophy (it is impossible to determine whether a child was born with a genetic condition or failed to thrive as result of the mother being unwell or poorly nourished herself); overlaying – this may be genuinely accidental as it was normal to keep the baby close to the mother but it is not unusual to find an illegitimate child or the youngest of a large family has died as the result of overlaying.: burns – very common at a time when heat and light were open fires or candles and washing was dried indoors; malnutrition – general living conditions were poor and there was no understanding of the nutritional needs of infants and the breadwinner would be first in line for food; opiate overdose – again very common as opiates were readily available and it would have been easy to give an infant too much when it was important to keep the child quiet in overcrowded living spaces.

[Margaret Lake ]

September 2016

'Overcoming obstacles’ - Alan Johnson

The secondary heading for this talk was “The tale of Alfred Hyam Wicks, an Oundle tailor” and it proved to be a fascinating and informative talk about all the different research techniques that were necessary to uncover the background of the father of Alan’s mother-in-law. Alan worked through the methods he used and illustrated each step with images of the documents he collected; it was also an illustration of the length of time it may take to complete the research: Alan started his research in 1988 and continues to collect information but the essential facts were completed in 2011 – 33 years later!!

Alan started the research in 1988 with minimal information to go on: the name, the fact that Alfred Hyam Wicks was married three times, he was a tailor and had had premises in Priestgate, Peterborough and that he had died in the mid-1920s. There were no certificates, photographs or newspaper cuttings.

The first step was to get a marriage certificate for the final marriage which gave Alfred’s age as 43, a widower and his father, Matthew, was a sawyer. His wife was Annie Elizabeth Greetham, 35, a spinster, daughter of James Greetham, a chairmaker. The second step was to get a birth certificate which showed that Alfred was born in 1874 and that the mother’s maiden name was Hyam. The third step was to get the 1881 census records (1891,1901 and 1911 would not be available until 1991, 2001 and 2011 respectively).

When the 1891 census did become available Alan hit a brick wall as he could not find Alfred Wicks or any other family member so he abandoned the research and took it up again in 2006 when he was given a gift that included a subscription to Ancestry. By this time, of course, the 1901 census was available and Alan was also able to find Alfred on the 1891 census as a tailor in Heckington. By 1901 Alfred was in West Street, Oundle aged 26 as a tailor married to Charlotte Oakley (Alan bought the marriage certificate showing that they had married in 1898). Alan used information in the census to do more research but was unable to find anything more about Alfred’ father.

The seventh stage of the research had to wait for the release of the 1911 census which showed that Alfred was a widower (Alan discovered that Charlotte died in 1909). Step 8 was finding Alfred’s second marriage in 1912.

Alfred died in October 1926 leaving his third wife with two small children and a stepson. Alan thinks the family may have been helped by the Salvation Army in the difficult times that followed the death of the breadwinner at the relatively young age of 48; he does know that the family moved into one of the first council houses in Peterborough in 1929; Alan’s mother–in-law married in 1949 and her husband moved into the family home and the tenancy was transferred to the younger family.

One major problem remained – Alan had been unable to locate Alfred’s father but in 2011 he had a breakthrough as a result of the Family Search release of indexed Norfolk registers. Matthew appears to have originated from Ickborough near Brandon and subsequently moved to Lincolnshire.

Alan gave an interesting talk that was enjoyed by everyone in the audience; it was particularly useful in giving pointers to different ways of “breaking down walls” and in illustrating the way in which family history research has changed over the 36 years since Alan started looking for Alfred Hyam Wicks.

[Margaret Lake ]

November 2016

Festive meeting

A good crowd of members gathered to enjoy the last meeting of 2016 with a bring and share buffet and several activities as well as a seasonally inspired talk by Keith Aplin. There was a competition for decorated cup-cakes and a couple of fun quizzes as well as individuals sharing their own Christmas traditions. Keith Aplin is a Lay Reader at St Peter’s Church in Wisbech and he is a driving force behind the collection of food for the Trussel Trust Food Bank. Keith told us about the old and new traditions that have combined to give the UK and North America the sort of Christmas we now celebrate. He linked the ancient traditions of marking the shortest day in mid-winter with festivals of light and feasting to the relatively modern Christian festival marking the birth of Christ. The Romans had a mid-winter festival of feasting linked to the dying of the year and increasing day length known as Saturnalia. Norse traditions tell of a wild hunt that is seen in the sky at the end of the mid-winter festivals; the hunt involves Odin or Woden being hauled through the sky in a sleigh pulled by an eight legged beast and accompanied by a raven – seeing or hearing the wild hunt was always an omen of death or disaster.

Elements of all these traditions are reflected in the ways in which we now celebrate Christmas: we light our houses (and towns) with coloured lights, we bring evergreens into the house and we eat, drink and be merry! We have Father Christmas who brings gifts and he is traditionally depicted as travelling in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer (Rudolph is a twentieth century addition). European countries celebrate the feast of Santa Claus on 5th December when Saint Nicholas or Sinta Claas delivers small gifts to children who have been good; he is accompanied by Black Peter who punishes naughty children.

In Britain Christmas was suppressed during the Commonwealth from 1649 -1660 but after the restoration Old Father Christmas was revived as a symbol of the “good old days” and he was responsible for delivering presents to children who had been good. He was dressed in green and in some ways harked back to old notions of the Green Man who is often incorporated in church buildings (Christians were very good at incorporating local and native traditions.) The red Father Christmas we are now so familiar with was unknown until Coca Cola gave him a red coat to better reflect their corporate identity!

The nativity story is only recorded in two of the gospels and each of these is told from a differing point of view; one is the story of Mary and one the story of Joseph. Keith sang two traditional carols (unaccompanied) to illustrate these two traditions. The nativity story as we understand it owes many of its traditions to St Francis of Assisi who wanted to emphasise the simplicity and poverty of Jesus’ background in contrast to the opulence of the church.

Much of what we celebrate at Christmas also goes back to Charles Dickens and “The Christmas Carol” and the poem “The night before Christmas” by Clement Clark Moore published in 1822.

Keith gave us lots to think about in the way we celebrate Christmas and the way different traditions have developed.

[Margaret Lake ]

2015

January 2015

Researching your ancestors - Steve Manning - No report

February 2015

Writing your family history

Alan Johnson, Peterborough and District Family History Society

Alan gave an informative talk with lots of ideas and encouragement to get each and every one of us to write a family history to make sense of all the materials that we have gathered together. By way of encouragement he asked each of us to consider how much material we have that will be of no value to anyone else because only we know what is there.

Alan has written nine family histories so far and each one has started with a few basic questions. Who is the history for? – in the first instance Alan wrote a history of one person for his mother and aunts. What is the scope? – is it one branch, one individual or all descendants of a common ancestor? Where will you stop? – will you include information about you, your parents or children? Alan also asked people to consider sensitive issues and to be prepared not to include material that may cause distress; it may be possible to embargo that material until some time in the future.

On a practical note, how will you produce the information? – longhand and typing are probably impractical so using a PC is probably the best option as it is easier to edit and to add material as well as to circulate especially if you use Word or PDF rather than a publishing programme. You also need to consider the form in which it will be produced: a printed book or booklet which can be expensive; a CD or on the Web; Alan has used report folders for the printed versions of his family histories which have the advantage of being able to be added to or amended easily as well as using CDs.

Having decided to write the history, you need to be specific about the information that will be included in the history and be organised about the order. In the introduction indicate what will be included and what will not. Always include a family tree, acknowledge your sources and use illustrations where available and always be aware of copyright. If you have lots of information it may be appropriate to write a separate history of a spouse.

Alan recommended finishing the history with a sentence such as “That concludes all that I have found out about X so far” or with an anecdote.

Alan gave an interesting and informative talk, let’s hope that it inspires each of us to put together at least one family history ……………….

[Margaret Lake ]

March 2015

Members' Meeting: held on Thursday 26th March

Thirty members attended a lively meeting with individual members presenting family stories. The evening was organised slightly differently from usual. We had the members’ stories followed by tea or coffee and the evening finished with a presentation on George A. Ward 1780 – 1860, who lived and worked in Wisbech: Judi Upton presented a detailed summary of his life using a wide range of resources to illustrate and confirm the information. This included John Peck’s diary entries, newspaper reports, legal documents, wills and photographs.

Some ”distant” members sent information in and there were displays of information to look at.

We had a real variety of stories with lots of local names and places mentioned. We started with the tale of grandparents who lived apart in Spalding and Fleet; then we saw a wedding photograph of the Friend family taken in 1903 in the orchard area near Sandyland . Another member sent in a photograph of a wedding that took place in Elm between members of the Hunter-Rowe and West families.

Another member told the story of her great grandfather “Potato Joe” Bettinson who farmed in Outwell, Upwell and Friday Bridge: he pioneered the introduction of Scotch seed potatoes, sugar beet and carrots and was also renowned as a horse breeder and for pedigree cattle. Another tale was told of a night time skating party held on the Well Creek in 1912.

Another member told the tale of her father’s 22 year service in the Gordon Highlanders and about his decision to marry based on a photograph he saw while serving in India.

Bridget told some anecdotes about her family including one about her grandmother who decided to teach her husband a lesson by making it seem as if she had gone missing as the result of a fire. He spent hours looking for her only to find her safe asleep in her bed!

Another member showed us a report from The Times published in the 1830’s. Her ancestor had been interviewed to find out the effects of the new Poor Law which had had a really detrimental effect on living conditions. The interview was very detailed and gave lots of information about life and living conditions specific to her family.

After last month’s meeting when we were encouraged to “sort out our family histories” a member who was sure he had no local family had discovered an ancestor living in Guyhirn - he had done some further research and found out that he had originally come from the Buckinghamshire/ Hertfordshire area.

This is just a brief synopsis of what was a very interesting evening with examples of different ways of presenting a life story or an incident.

[Margaret Lake ]

April 2015

WWII Plus - Mike Petty

April 2015 meeting report: Speaker Mike Petty: writer on local history and previously in charge of the Local Collection at Cambridge Central Library

Mike started his talk by saying that later this year he will be delivering three talks at the Octavia Hill Museum as part of the Nene Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership; the talks will be: 1. Who built the Bedford Level? 2. How do we find out? 3. Who lived alongside? Mike also explained that he has now stopped writing his weekly columns in the Cambridgeshire paper but all the columns are available and searchable on the internet.

Mike also referred to the proposed relocation of the County Archives and Local Collection to new premises in Ely.

The main talk was about the importance of local newspapers as a source of information for family historians and particularly the amount of information that is available for the Fens in the 1940’s. Mike used illustrations from the local papers to follow the course of the war and to give a different slant to the accepted view of some of the stories we think we know about. For instance, few of us knew that when it seemed that war was imminent in early 1939 children had been evacuated to the Cambridge area and then returned home only to be evacuated again in September 1939 when the war started in earnest. There were lots of pictures of children with their luggage labels.

Farming underwent an enormous change because whereas for the previous two decades there had been an agricultural depression farm produce was in demand and the land under the plough in the Isle of Ely rose from 12 million acres to 19 million acres and there were a lot of stories about new land being ploughed and photographs of bog oaks being dug out and laid along roadsides. There were also stories and photographs of Land Army girls doing their month long training at the Cambridge University Farm. Mike said that he had been talking about this at an earlier talk and one of the audience said that she had been at work at Burwell and as a boat approached the girls were asked to stop work and line up – the King and Queen stepped off the boat and they spoke to them and thanked them for the work they were doing.

Newspapers also provide huge amounts of information about what was going on in communities with photographs of the Home Guard, fund raising for Spitfires, Hurricanes and ships – local communities often supported an individual plane or ship.

There was also a great deal of contemporary “anonymised” information about the amount of air raids and war damage that occurred. For instance the first city in the country to be bombed was Ely but it is referred to as a city in Cambridgeshire and Cambridge is a town in Cambridgeshire. A terrace of houses in Cambridge was hit and among the dead were children evacuated from London …. Although no detail is given about actual places the Air Raid Wardens’ records were published after the war and give precise locations and detail of the damage.

D-Day was planned in Cambridge when Montgomery and Eisenhower met there and military exercises took place on rivers and local people remember a boat sinking on the Ouse with significant loss of life.

Another aspect of local life was the coming of the US forces and the number of POW camps both German and Italian; many of the POW’s became integrated into local life as they worked on farms and some stayed on after the war and married local girls.

The end of the war in Europe was marked in local papers but as many local regiments were in the Far East the coverage was tempered and more subdued than might have been expected.

Mike concluded his talk with references to the appalling winter of 1947 with images of the flooding of the Fens as result of the exceptionally heavy winter snow followed by a sudden thaw and then a northerly gale that prevented the tide in the Wash going out – the flood defences were breached and an area of 100 square miles was under water with houses and lives and livelihoods destroyed. The armed forces were deployed and the breaches in the flood walls were filled with army tanks which were then buried to create solid barriers. The newspaper images of the flood and its aftermath illustrate the power of the local press very effectively as each image is worth far more than a thousand words.

[Margaret Lake ]

May 2015

Keep it clean - Anne Barnes

Anne gave a well-researched, informative and thoroughly entertaining talk that covered 4000 years of history. She started by getting us to think about how we would use water if we had to walk to the source and then carry it back: washing the body would not be a priority as water for food and drink was a more immediate need. The first known bath was found in Crete and dates to about 2000BC, we know that the Egyptians had baths and latrines and that the Romans were famous for their plumbing for communal, public baths and latrines.

As an aside Anne told us about several early Christian saints for whom washing was anathema: St Jerome and St Agnes never washed and St Catherine tried never to wash. Monks in the early Christian church washed four times a year but washed their feet weekly on Saturdays. Mediaeval monasteries in this country were built with communal latrines (the rere dorter).

The Vikings were known to be much cleaner than their contemporaries, they combed their hair and bathed weekly as well as changing their clothes weekly.

In the later middle ages privacy was an unknown luxury and baths, when available, would be shared and, indeed beds were often shared as well. It is known that there were public latrines in this country until the mid-fourteenth century and after the Black Death there were rules about cess pits being constructed but public latrines seem to have stopped being provided. There was some idea that immoral behaviour had been encouraged by communal bathing and that the Black Death was a punishment for this immorality. It is known that chamber pots were in use and were commonly made of earthenware although some were made of base or even precious metals, the disposal of the contents of the pots was not regulated, of course.

The first water closet was designed by a godson of Elizabeth 1, Sir John Harrington in 1596. It is known that he bathed daily but the Queen bathed once a month, whether or not she needed it! James 1 notoriously only ever washed his fingers.

The next significant development comes in the late 17th century when spas began to become popular. Places like Bath, Buxton, Cheltenham and Harrogate began to attract visitors who would drink the waters or bathe in them for health reasons. In the eighteenth century John Wesley preached the virtue of cold baths.

There was no indoor sanitation although wealthy people were beginning to install bathrooms and lavatories. Queen Victoria had a lavatory installed in her GWR carriage. Apparently the convenience in her Great Eastern train carriage was disguised in a sofa! Prince Albert oversaw the installation of plumbing at various royal residences.

During the 19th century it became more common to construct cess pits with a water closet for a group of houses and as the link between hygiene and health was recognised schemes for the construction of sewers and sewage farms were drawn up. Various Acts of Parliament such as the 1846 Public Baths and Washhouses Act. enabled improvements. In 1851 Public Conveniences were installed at the Great Exhibition and these proved very popular.

Anne’s talk was very well received by the meeting and it elicited lots of response; after the talk members chatted about unusual “facilities” and particular public conveniences in the area (the underground one on Wisbech Market Place; the double seater at the Haigh Assembly rooms in King Street, Wisbech). This was a thoroughly enjoyable and informative talk.

[Margaret Lake ]

July 2015

Skeletons in the cupboard - Liz Carter

Liz introduced her talk by saying that although she had intended to illustrate it using her laptop it would not be possible as the laptop had been damaged by a glass of blackcurrant squash!

She intended to talk about ways of researching mysteries and myths that all of us have in our family trees, by researching “skeletons” it is possible to flesh them out and fill in gaps. As she is a professional genealogist she would only be using examples from her own or her husband’s family as she could not breach the confidentiality of her clients.

Liz explained that she had become interested in family history as her own surname “Ganniclifft” is particularly unusual. She talked about the reasons that people changed their names (other than through marriage) and about events that individuals might want concealed and she suggested that it would be worth investigating whether the concealment was deliberate.

Liz talked about her own complicated family and a tale of divorce that she was able to research. She included anecdotes about families from her home area of Huntingdonshire.

This was an entertaining and interesting talk with lots of ideas about sources of information that could be used to flesh out the skeletons on a family tree.

[Margaret Lake ]

September 2015

Lies, damned lies and family history - Wim Zwalf

Wim entertained the meeting with a new talk he has been driven to research as he feels he has taken both strands of his family tree as far back as records will allow. This has meant that he now needs to look in more detail at some of the stories and tales that have circulated within the family (and indeed every family) – the stories from “Aunt Ada” which may have a kernel of truth within them but may also be lies or damned lies.

Wim started by suggesting that the reasons for some of the incorrect information may lie within transcription of documents which may have been difficult to read because of difference in the way we recognise certain letters or combinations of letters. There have also been problems in the accuracy of transcriptions such as the IGI, parish records and censuses. Wim illustrated this with an example of a marriage which had been mis-transcribed with the bride’s name being copied from the line below. He had also spent considerable time trying to trace a census entry which was given as ‘Culnaort’; after considerable effort and visits to Northumberland it turned out that the place was actually ‘Cullercoats’!

Wim explored the history of family members who had emigrated to Australia and by looking at census records was able to identify the links that had led to his relative emigrating. He also used a wide range of materials to extend his knowledge of ancestors – advertisements and newspaper reports (from Dutch papers) which disproved a family story that a great grandfather had died a ruined man following a fire at his business premises. In fact he died some years later having retired to a popular retirement town.

We were all impressed by the information that is provided on Dutch marriage certificates (since 1812). The documents are family trees in themselves and provided information about the principals and their parentage (including occupations) as well as the witnesses.

Yet again Wim presented us with an entertaining and informative talk which made us think about how we research and what additional sources we might use to extend our research – and how to check whether a story is a lie or is in fact family history.

[Margaret Lake ]

October 2015

Searching for William – from Liverpool to Oz to Lewes - Robert Parker

Rob Parker is a well- known Family Historian who started doing family history research and then became a trainer and tutor. He has written articles about both sides of his family. The topic of this evening’s presentation is from his mother’s (Nash) side of the family.

Rob introduced the talk and said he would welcome questions at any point of the talk, he also said that there would be a quiz on Australia in the middle with a prize (a box of chocolates for the winner). Most of his research is now done using the internet but (and it is a very big but) only 5% of records are online and the chances are that only 9% will ever be available so Rob advised us that we must be prepared to use Record Offices and other sources of information.

The subject of Rob’s search was William George Nash who was his grandmother’s brother who was born in South East London in 1904. Rob started researching before the internet was available and he started with his grandmother’s parents. These were Mary Ann Elizabeth Morris and Edward Nash. Rob thought his great grandmother would be easy to find but he hadn’t bargained on her being known as Polly in census records! Edward Nash went on to become a Police Inspector and the story of his son William was that he fell out with his father (for whatever reason) and he went to Perth in 1925. It was known that he married and then he and his wife split up and William left his wife with a 5 year old son. During the Second World War the Australian family sent food parcels to the family in London but then all contact was lost. This was the sum total of Rob’s knowledge of William.

In 1991/2 Rob took year out and went round the world, he visited Perth and checked records in the library – he discovered that he had been looking for George William Nash rather than William George as it should have been but found it difficult to get any further. In 1995 he decided to try again and was then able to get on an internet mailing list which gained some responses.

He was able to track down William’s birth using BMD and it was suggested by Rootsweb that although it was known that William had gone to the Gold Coast in 1925 it might have been the Gold Coast in Africa rather than the one in Australia. Rob also contacted the Australian National Archives and they suggested that Second World War military records might yield results. Rob was able to find that William had served in the army and he saw his pay records but that he had been discharged on 23/2/44 “to maintain essential supplies”. It was completely unknown that William had been involved in farming and apparently he was a dairy farmer and from subsequent researches using Post Office records Rob was able to establish that William had lived in Wellard an important dairy town south of Perth (at the beginning of the war there was 1 farm at the end there were 34 dairy farms).

After contacting the State Library, Rob was able to trace a marriage record for William to Hazel Sophronia Dow and even more surprisingly he was able to establish that she was still alive at that time. Rob wrote to Hazel and after 3½ weeks a letter came back saying, ”you have found your relative”. Unfortunately Hazel was not able to tell Rob what had happened to William after he left her with a 5 year old son, Mark Nash who now lives in Lewes, Sussex.

As a result of information provided by Hazel, Rob used shipping records to establish that William left Liverpool in January 1925 and went to Calabar (Gold Coast, Africa); he returned to England in 1926 or 7 and then aged 23 went to Fremantle, Australia. Then, there are no further records until the 1940’s . Rob did manage to find a museum volunteer at the Rockingham Museum in Wellard, who remembered William as “very strange with a rather abrasive manner”.

Rob then managed to contact Mark Nash in Lewes and arranged to meet him in London. It transpired that Mark had no memory of his father and had employed a genealogist to do some research but it was based on the wrong man! Mark didn’t get on with his mother but after her death which occurred shortly after Rob first contacted her some letters were found in her effects which hint at a further mystery: in one letter William refers to having travelled to Perth from Sydney under the name Reynolds! Does this explain why he has been so elusive?

Rob is still searching for William and as yet he has not found a record of his death.

This was a thoroughly entertaining and fascinating account of Rob’s search for William; it demonstrated the breadth of resources available to the determined researcher and many different ways of breaking down walls. Rob also provided an email link to his own website with addresses. The quiz about Australia in the middle also made everyone think - who knew there were that many different types of kangaroos and wallabies .( I can’t reveal the answer as Rob will want to re-use the quiz!)

website link: www.myfamilygenealogy.co.uk

[Margaret Lake ]

November 2015

Festive Member Meeting

The festive meeting was a very enjoyable mixture of food, fun and finding out about breaking down brick walls. There was a very tasty spread of food brought by members and we started with the buffet and a quiz put together by Barbara Holmes. We also had a photograph competition “Who you think they turned into?” – members brought baby and childhood photos and we all had a go at working out who was who. One or two were easy to recognise, am I flattered or horrified that people worked out that I was the very plump baby photographed by Dennis Hammond?

Bridget and Judy then gave talks about the different ways that they had approached particular brick walls. Bridget spoke about a puzzling 1911 census entry that appeared to have the wrong person as head of household – the name given was that of the father not the husband. The age and rest of the family were correct but it was only when Bridget looked at the way the census was laid out she realised what the issue was: the census asks for the head of household and the owner of the land was the father, the son was hiring the house and land from the father therefore he put down the father as the head of household. How many other census entries might there be like that? We all know of 1911 census entries that record all children born of that marriage even if they are no longer at home (or even still living).

Bridget also told the tale of an ancestor who seems to have changed both her given name and family name at different times. It was a complex story with children who had no fathers on the birth certificates. She explained how she cross checked and matched known events and people with census entries including an entry for Holloway and finally came to the conclusion that the person in question had changed her name at different times: it was a tangled web but Bridget managed to untangle it.

Judy talked about an ancestor who also seemed to have changed her name at various times according to circumstance. The lady in question was born at the beginning of the nineteenth century and she seems to have been married and then left her husband and lived as if married with another man and had children by both men. The names by which the children were known seem to have varied according to who was filling in the census (sometimes the names were spelt differently as well). Judy lost sight of the lady by 1881 but could find no record of her death in the Upwell area – hardly surprising as the lady emigrated to America at the age of 81! - Judy found shipping records showing that the lady had travelled with one of her granddaughters. It just goes to show that you should never make assumptions.

Various other members contributed stories about brick walls and ways they had tackled problems.

All together a thoroughly enjoyable end to 2015.

[Margaret Lake ]

2014

January 2014

What Grandma Didnít Want Me To Know!

The Speaker at our January meeting was Steve Manning, Chairman of the Peterborough & District F.H.S. His talk was entitled "What Grandmother didn't want me to know, and other family stories."

He talk included lots of pictures to accompany his many interesting stories, two of which I have included below.

A Canadian cousin mentioned in one email that her mum had an older sister who didn’t live with the family. Already aware of the parents’ marriage date and the birth dates of the previously known children, Steve realised there was something ‘a little wrong’ with this new piece of information. He eventually tracked down the older sister - who was in reality a half-sister – alive and well in Queensland, Australia!

It was Steve’s Great Uncle Ernest who was to blame for the title of his talk. On one occasion, some 40+ years ago, his uncle told of a relative who killed a man for molesting his wife in a pub. But he either didn’t know – or wouldn’t reveal – anything about the person involved. All Ern did say was the victim was his brother-in-law! Steve was very excited by this little bit of scandal and couldn’t wait to tell his Grandmother all about it. But she was not amused and responded angrily, 'What did he want to tell you that for?' Suffice to say, Steve was now ‘hooked’ on Family History - although he didn’t discover the sad truth about the real story for many, many years!

[Malcolm Bailey]

February 2014

Historical Account of Outwell

The speaker at the February meeting was William Smith, and his talk was a 'Pictorial views of Outwell'.

This report is unfortunately brief; due to the fact the talk was pictorial.

William talk took us on a trip of the village of outwell. The first slide compared views from the top of the church tower, towards the mill, at two different dates I was surprised at how little it had changed. During the talk we visited the canal, pubs, shops and houses, often comparing now and then pictures. We also met people and some families, of the village - many who were related to people attending the meeting.

As our summer visit we will be visiting Outwell church on June 26th 2014.

The talk created lots of reminiscing during the drinks after.

[Malcolm Bailey]

March 2014

QUACKS & QUACKERY –but no ducks! Dr Eric Somerville

A good attendance listened to Eric’s illustrated & light hearted talk on the progress of healing the sick over the ages,

The dictionary says that a quack is a ‘scoundrel, a charlatan’, a person who dishonestly claims to have a special knowledge in some field, typically medicine. Eric said the origin of the word possibly came from ‘quacksalver’, meaning a person who sold potions or nostrums at Fairs and similar gatherings, claiming they would cure all illnesses!

Nothing was known about Anatomy /Physiology, disease or cures. People would send for the wise woman or midwife of the village for any help with illness. Surgery stemmed from the local barber & later from the military field. Any person could call themselves doctor & over the years many have offered ‘cures’ for various ailments.

From a long list of quacks Eric showed the ‘special ‘treatments – quackery – of each ‘Dr.’

These ranged from hot & cold - bathing, manipulation of the spine, phrenology, poultices. sitting in blue light & the administrations of various nostrums such as arsenic, mercury & herbs. It was known that druggists made radium water for people to drink. & some religious groups believe that lust & libido was the cause of illness & had to be suppressed ! Several old recipes are still available today especially in the USA. Herbal remedies were written down by monks who would care for the sick. Nothing was known of infection & many died from shock & blood loss.

It has to be said that most of the potions caused vomiting & purging. The ‘cure’ was often more deadly than the disease. The Greeks were known to use enemas to cure disease.

In the time of Leonardo da Vinci the Pope allowed dissection of the dead & the artistic skills of da Vinci displayed the most accurate details of the body, from which the understanding of Anatomy & Physiology comes. It is said that they match the accuracy of MRI scans today.

It was not until 1858 that any recognised medical training was available at Oxford & Cambridge Edinburgh. & Doctors were registered & took the Oath of Hippocrates.

In the 17c Culpepper’s treatments were herbal & astrological & Cocaine, Opium & Alcohol were used. Some quacks trained to be an Apothecary leading to the registered chemist & pharmacist of today.

Infection was being understood & medical practise moved to what it is today.

So we must be thankful for the modern Doctors & drugs. We can only wonder what the future will hold It is already understood that in the not too distant future a patients treatment & drugs will be ‘tailored ‘ specifically for him only. Questions followed a very interesting talk.

The April meeting is by Brian Jones, the last he will give as he is retiring. His talk will be Me & My Family Tree.

[Barbara Holmes]

June 2014

Visit to St Clement's Church, Outwell

As the Rose Fair preparations prevent us using St Peters Hall we visited the parish church at Outwell. Our Chairman gave us an illustrated talk and pointed out some of the newly discovered treasures.

Two years ago Dr Clare Daunton visited the church to look at the mediaeval stained glass including the only known representation of Balthazar and some highly coloured images of saints. Whilst looking round Clare notice some unusual double carvings at the bases of the hammer beams. There are twelve carvings each with two figures; the smaller figures at the front are identifiable as apostles and saints but the larger figures which tower over them are intriguingly “normal” people although they have claws for hands. There are recognisable characters: a monk, a merchant, a lady and others. The carvings are covered in a black, Victorian wood preservative and nobody knows how Clare managed to see them. As a result the Friends of St Clements has been set up and a grant from English Heritage/National Lottery has been agreed to restore the roof and preserve the carvings.

Not only are there these unusual carvings, there are more than two hundred carved angels, some are red with gold wings, some are carved oak and there are carved symbols and decorations along the roof edges in the aisles and in the side chapels. The Beaupré Chapel contains a monument that is carved with a detailed family history ensuring that the daughter of the last man to bear the surname Beaupré can prove her lineage.

There is a fifteenth century wooden chest with seven locks that was originally made in Prussia before being used to transport goods to the Hanseatic Port of Kings Lynn – there are about a hundred of these chests known, nearly all of them in churches or colleges in the eastern counties. The iron work was added as security so that several key holders needed to be present before the chest could be opened.

The lectern is an eagle made of latten and is also from the fifteenth century and there is a seventeenth century collection box made of wood on a pillar – there are carved faces on three of the box sides: one boy, one girl and twins. There has been a lot of debate as to whether it was to be used by families or mothers on the occasion of the churching service six weeks after birth or is it just an elaborate alms box?

The church is a treasure house and many of its features have survived changes in doctrine and liturgy that saw images being destroyed wholesale.

The evening concluded with members looking round the church and having coffee and cake in the Beaupré Chapel.

[Brian Jones]

July 2014

HOW TO DATE OLD PHOTOGRAPHS - TOM DOIG

We had visitors from Canada & Doncaster at our well attended July meeting.

Tom Doig the well known social historian demonstrated how to date photographs. His introduction told us how the first ‘photos’ were found in caves & were outline images of human hands . The hand was placed on the cave wall & ‘drawn’ around.

In 1810 images were produced by a person’s head, in profile, being lit to create a shadow. & creating a silhouette which was often cut out in black card.

Niépce, a Frenchman discovered a way of getting a picture onto paper, his first was of a roof top & the exposure time was 12 hours.

De Querre in about 1828 invented the daquerreotype process of photography, when the exposure time was less but the pictures faded very quickly .

Dating photos therefore can only be assessed when photos were mounted on glass & put into frames. As time passed the frame design went through changes.

In about 1850 the frames, oblong & mostly leather with infill fillets of ‘gold metal ‘ had side hinges which held a leather cover to protect the glass. Later these frames became more elaborate & the fillets were thicker & machined tooled. Still with leather covers, the inside of which was covered in crushed velvet & had a hook on the outside on which a watch could be hung. In 1859 the photos were surrounded by a plainer oval fillet & the edge of the frame was printed with a geometric design .

The photos remained in the negative form being stuck onto glass & the application of black mastic applied caused the optical illusion & created the positive picture. In 1856 new photo covers were made out of coal dust, milk & sulphuric acid which when mixed & dried created a ‘plastic’ like material which could be decorated by putting through a press containing plates of designs.

Occasionally dates can be worked out by the fashions of the day & Tom told us of several aids used to hold the client immobile for the long exposure times. & props & backcloths the photographers used.

Photography progressed with ‘cartes visite’, these were very small photos often taken with a four lens camera.

About 1865 photos as we know them were dated on the back with the photo number & photographer’s advertisement, some very elaborate

Tom suggested we should look at old photos much more closely as there is often a lot of information in them. As we enjoyed refreshments Tom was kept busy answering questions .

Tom will be at our Family history day on September 27th at St Peters Church hall Wisbech where he will be pleased to look at any of our old family pictures & give advice on them

Our AGM is on September 25th followed by a talk from our President Wim Zwalf on his unusual surname.

[Barbara Holmes]

Sep 2014

AGM & Talk by Wim Zwalf

Our AGM was conducted by our President Wim Zwalf who afterwards gave a talk on his rare & unusual surname. His father was Dutch & records started in 1811 showed three generations registered with their religions noted.

These records were destroyed during the war to prevent the Germans from finding people belonging to the Jewish faith. Several of Wim’s family were sent to concentration camps. The survivors, including his parents, were hidden by various people in many different places.

In 1960 as a student at King’s College London reading theology, he came across the surname over a jewellers shop. Having never met anyone with the surname Zwalf before he went inside and found that although the jeweller, Herman Zwalf also had a Dutch father, Wim could make no family connection.

This started Wim on his search for other Zwalfs. The origin of the name is thought to be Arabic with the name pronounced differently & translating in the middle east to mean the name for wigs or the long side curls worn by Jewish men, or to mean side burns or from North Africa, long plaits.

Wim has traced a possible ancestor to Hartog Zwalf in 1810 & his search has been worldwide. He found 3rd & 4th cousins now deceased. Despite this, there appears to be only nine male Zwalfs these being Wim’s own family. & his search continues..

At our October meeting Geoff Sewell will give a talk on the Great War.

[Barbara Holmes]

Sep 2014

FAMILY HISTORY DAY 2014

Sunshine welcomed people to our family history day & the various visiting societies soon had their stalls up & running in the large hall.

People were welcomed at the door by Chris & Leanne & Karen directed people to the various venues available for help & advice. We were pleased to hear that the attendance was slightly higher than last year, including three canine friends!

We again had Martin Edwards & Peter Hunter in the nearby Wisbech Library helping people with their military enquiries. The library staff gave talks on what was available there to assist people with the family research. In the Wisbech Museum Judi & Bridget were able to show visitors what was available there.

In the small room at the hall our Society members Anita, Barbara, Janet & Judy had lap tops & fiche readers available & people to give advice. A gentleman of 86 years wanted to know of his family & we were pleased to say that we could help him.

At the other end of the scale a school boy came with his mother, for help with his family research as part of a school project.

Ron, Jane & Pat attended our Memorial Inscriptions books & registers table and these were very well used.

Pauline & Terry manned our book stall & also gave advice.

Linda & Susannah kept us very well supplied with drinks, Ploughman’s lunches & lovely cakes.

A few people do a lot of hard work to make this day successful and a big thank you must go to Malcolm who moved the tables & chairs & helped Bridget with the planning for the day.

Thank you to our visitors for coming, we hope you found the help you wanted & will come again next year & thanks to all the Fenland Family History members & helpers for their time & assistance.

[Barbara Holmes]

Oct 2014

THE GREAT WAR - Geoff Sewell

The Speaker at the October meeting was Geoff Sewell, with a talk entitled 'The Great War'.

The evening began in the picturesque village of Eltisley, with tree lined routes to the centre. But the 100 year old trees along the edge of the green are also a memorial to the men of the village who died during WW1, including 3 pairs of brothers.

We were introduced to his grandfather Ben, and learned about his time in the trenches during the Great War. We learned about the gas attacks used including tear gas, chlorine gas and mustard gas and Ben's time at Ypres. At the end of the talk a lot of time was spent looking at replica gas hoods and masks, including one with a plastic screen sewn into it, which was totally ineffective and at flechette - pointed steel projectile, with a vanned tail for stable flight, these where thrown from aircraft flying over the enemy.

Geoff also brought a lot of other artefacts with him including an Enfield gun, gas masks and letter openers, crafted from various different types of ordnance.

[Malcolm Bailey ]

Dec 2014

No meeting

2013

February 2013

The Religious Houses of Medieval Lincolnshire

The speaker this month was our popular member Brian Jones, who was giving his talk entitled “The Religious Houses of Medieval Lincolnshire” Part 2, a continuation of the talk originally given over 2 years ago.

Brian explained the many changes taking place from the early years between 600 – 700, when the Danes invaded Lincolnshire and gradually altered every Religious House by 870,followed by the Saxons who then took over, until in 1066 the Normans changed the face of Religion for the next 500 years.

Lincolnshire alone had 120 Monastic sites, including 15 Abbeys; 35 Priories; 13 Alien Priories; 23 Hospitals [hospitality sites]; 17 Friaries; 4 Colleges and 2 Cells, all having a specific roll to play. The various Abbeys were ‘Closed Orders’, the monks were not allowed to leave once they had taken their vows. The Priories, always positioned outside the confines of the towns were able to give food and shelter to travellers who arrived after the town gates had shut for the night, and were also responsible for managing and directing the financial affairs of their particular order. The Friars went about within the local community, giving care where needed and preaching for donations, they ‘took the message’ to the local community. Colleges provided education.

There were a large number of different Monastic denominations including Cistercians [White ], Franciscans [Grey] Augustinians, Carmelites, Dominicans, Benedictines etc. all originating mainly from France or other parts of Europe. The only English Order in Lincolnshire were the Gilbertines at Sempringham Church.

Some of the Orders were very wealthy indeed. The Cistercians, based to the west of the county in the sheep rearing countryside, sent vast quantities of wool to the continent and with the money raised from the wool trade built many beautiful buildings. Boston, being a sea port also had great wealth from trade of varying kinds, while Stamford, situated on the River Welland and also on the Roman road linking the east coast to the Midlands had further trading opportunities with Calais, and other European ports.

Lincoln, being a land-locked City, needed to find other ways to raise money for its Religious Houses. Lincoln Cathedral was not monastic, it was purely a place of worship.

The Gilbertines at Sempringham Church were finally recognised in 1165 and were paid by King Henry II to take in eight Welch princesses and keep them secure, to prevent any chance of a Welch uprising against his rule. Princess Gwladys became a nun there and the presence of the others is documented by their headstones to the side of the church.

Other ways of raising money included paying for Absolution by endowing a church!! Raising tolls on Causeways to upkeep the causeways and keep the change!! Preaching ‘The word’ to the masses and encouraging donations for ‘blessings’ and for sins forgiven etc.

During the 1300’s there was great prosperity in the country, but the wealth declined during the 1400’s . Many towns and cities were ravaged by fires and the wooden buildings were lost. in the 14th Century, due to the plague and the shrinkage of monastic life other buildings fell into disrepair and were ‘re-cycled’ by the local population, so very few remain to-day. Crowland Abbey was the only one ‘re-founded’ and was the main power base in Lincolnshire.

[Judy Green]

April 2013

“Surnames”

The speaker for this month was Brian Jones,who filled in at very short notice for Ann Cole who had transport problems.

The topic for Brian’s talk was “Surnames”, and what they could tell us about the past and the meanings of many names in use today.

Before the Normans arrived in England, people did not have surnames, but were known by nicknames or descriptive names e.g. Red , Black etc. Today there are more than 45000 different surnames in England. 30% of Welsh population are named Jones while 6% of the rest of the U.K are called Jones making it the second most numerous name in U.K. Smith is still the most numerous name.

Brian had, naturally, researched the name of Jones and found that it originated in Huntingdonshire in 1279. as a surname.

It was not until 1400 that hereditary surnames were handed down through the male line.

Immigration and migration caused many name changes as there were no forms to fill in, and many people decided to make new lives for themselves by simply changing their names. So some names may not have disappeared, but instead have just been changed at the whim of the family, for reasons best known to themselves!!

Descriptive names e.g. John the butcher became Mr Butcher, and descriptive nicknames were recorded as true names e.g. Mary of the woods became Mary Woods.

Many Irish and Scottish names were derived from the Gaelic, and spelling and dialect gradually altered many names.

In the early days of immigration surnames indicated the origin of the person : Beamish from Bohemia; Hannay – Hainault; Janeway – Genoa; Moore – Morocco; Brisowe – Bristol or Burstow ; Vyse – Devises.

Others denoting origin were: Surtees – on the Tees; Pickersgill – stream with pike in it; Hope or Holme – raised in the Fens; Burn or Bourne – stream; Fleet – stream, river , estuary; Sike or Sykes – marshy stream.

Many community names became surnames: Chapman – shopkeeper; Latimer – interpreter; Leech – physician; Barker – tanner; Jenner – engineer; Milner – miller; Bannister – bath keeper; Pargetter – plasterer; Arkwright – maker of arks and chests, while Mason; Thatcher; Fisher etc. were descriptive of industry.

Names such as King, Pope, Bishop, Monk and Abbott were nicknames or travelling players of mystery or religious plays, who played the same roll each year as they travelled about the country.

Many thanks to Brian,who in his inimitable way, provided an interesting and amusing evening for all the members of the FFHS.

[Judy Green]

May 2013

Births & Baptisms in the 1800's

The speaker for the May meeting was Tom Doig who, once again, gave a fascinating and informative talk; this time the topic was “Birth and Baptism in the 19th Century”. Tom is a Social Historian with a particular interest in the rôle of women in 19th century rural communities. He illustrated his talk with references from his local area of North Hertfordshire and further afield.

The whole point of marriage was the production of children: there was, therefore, no stigma attached to the bride being pregnant at the time of the wedding. Some estimates put the number of pregnant brides as high as 50% in the Ag Lab section of society – this would be much lower in the middle and upper classes. There was however stigma attached to not being married at the time of the birth. Unmarried mothers without means of support might well end up in the Workhouse. Induced miscarriage was not uncommon and was inherently dangerous.

There were certain women who were “allowed” to have illegitimate children. Tom referred to a Sarah Robinson from his own village whose profession is given in the census as “female barber”. There is a painting of Sarah with her children outside her cottage with her children on May Day. Sarah had several children: all the boys went on to be apprenticed and the girls all went into domestic service, at a time when employment was not always available. Sarah owned her own property and was able to support her family although she was an unmarried mother. Tom also talked about some of the May Day traditions that prevailed in the 19th century including dancing round the Maypole and a version of trick or treat where the children took May Sticks round to ask villagers for treats.

Tom then went on to talk about the arrangements that were necessary for marriage. The legal part of marriage was the publication of the Banns, by being called or bawled by the Parish Clerk on three consecutive Sundays in church after the end of the service or in the market square of specified towns (eg: Wisbech and Kings Lynn but not Peterborough). The Banns are read by the Clerk and then signed by the Minister. Technically the couple were married once the third set of Banns had been read; the bride did not attend the church services where the banns were called and there is a tradition whereby the groom and his supporters leave the church by the South door following the third reading and the groom crosses over a mop or brush to greet his bride and her friends. This is known as marriage “over the brush” and at a time when money was in short supply this meant that the couple did not have to pay for the further costs of a church wedding which would have been a further 5s. The marriage lines (a signed record) would be kept carefully by the bride. The cost of reading the Banns in 1820 was 7s 6d for three readings (about ¾ of a week’s wage) and this would be double if the couple lived in different parishes. Some vicars came to an arrangement between themselves to allow couples to “live” in one parish so only one set of Banns would be necessary. This is why it sometimes seems that the bride and groom are living together. If the parishes were too far apart for an arrangement to be made the bride and groom might opt for a marriage by licence which would cost 10s which was 5s less than two sets of Banns.

Tom then went on to talk about some of the traditions surrounding childbirth. A woman was not expected to go out of the house for a month before the expected birth (confinement) and for between 4 and 6 weeks after the birth. A monthly nurse would come and stay with the expectant mother until the baby was on its way at which time the she would summon the midwife; this could be done by hanging a cloth out of the window or by lighting a bonfire at night. The monthly nurse would then move on to the next household. The room for giving birth would be set up in a specific way with the doors and windows shut and a fire lit and a bucket of water at hand. (In Scotland all the windows and doors were opened.) The midwife would be accompanied by two Gossips – from God’s Sibs – whose role was to bring the mother up to date with all the local news. As soon as the baby was born the baby would be given to the Gossips who determined the sex of the baby and checked for obvious signs of disability or deformity. An obviously damaged baby would be disposed of using the bucket of water. Some problems such as blindness or deafness were not obvious at birth. The midwife would burn the placenta on the fire – there was however a tradition in Fenland of cooking the placenta in an omelette and feeding it to the new mother. (!)

A baby could not be baptised in church until it was at least four weeks old but a sickly baby could be baptised by the midwife and the registration of the baptism was made in church at a later date if the child survived. In the case of illegitimate babies the Gossips were also supposed to ascertain who the father was. The names given to 19th century babies tended to be those from the Bible, Saints, monarchs and family names; some names like Asa could be for either sex (sometimes this is not obvious at birth) and the names Martha and Matthew are sometimes used in these cases.

The new mother was allowed to return to society four to six weeks after the birth and after the churching service – in 1820 the Minister and Parish Clerk each cost 1s 6d about 30% of the average Ag Lab’s weekly wage. This was a cleansing service as required in Leviticus 12: vv2-7.

Yet again Tom brought the past to life with his insights into 19th century marriage and birth customs.

[Margaret Lake]

June 2013

CROYLAND ABBEY & ST. GUTHLAC.

On a cold & rainy evening our speaker & guide Brian Jones, with his umbrella up, welcomed about twenty members & friends in the car park next to Croyland Abbey in the town of Crowland Lincs. Although it was our June meeting it didn’t stop raining during our visit inside the abbey & on the town tour afterwards.

Inside the Abbey we were able to see pictures describing the life of St. Guthlac & Brian elaborated on this with detailed information & on the history of the Abbey.

In the roof of the chancel we were shown the green man, the pagan symbol of fertility and inside the main door the alcove next to the font where the priests would wash their hands before carrying out Baptisms. The abbey itself has been destroyed & rebuilt many times & the ruins outside showed us how large it was in the past.

St Guthlac was born about 673AD and died & was buried at the abbey on the 11th April 714, a date which he himself predicted.

He was of noble stock being a prince, & as a young boy he was very pious.

After about eight years fighting in wars he became very remorseful & decided to enter a monastery. He entered Repton & has his head shaved.

After two years of penance & great attention to his monastic duties he decided to carry out the greater penance of the Fathers of the Desert .

For this & with two companions he took a boat to the lonely fenland isle of Croyland.

Fifteen years of solitude & rigid penance with fasting during daylight hours followed.

With only bread & dirty water taken in the evening he was often ill & delusional with the ‘evil one’. In spite of this Guthlac started to be the recipient of extreme powers & graces.

His sanctity became famous & brought many pilgrims to his cell & one Bishop Hedda raised him to the priest hood & consecrated his humble chapel.

Æthelbald spent part of his exile with Guthlac .After Guthlac died he appeared in a vision to Æthelbald & told him that one day he would be King.

The tour of the Crowland town included several interesting buildings including the three arched bridge which used to span three rivers which still run underground today.

Our July meeting is about Maps & Surveys 1910 by Liz Carter

[Barbara Holmes]

July 2013

1900 MAPS & SURVEYS - LIZ CARTER

On a very warm evening a good number of members & guests listened to Liz detailing the history of survey maps. Originally they were ordinance maps for military use & these were the bases for the 1910 survey maps.

Liz demonstrated three internet sites of these surveys & with the scale of 6 & 25 inches to the mile they showed every detail on a town map.

These surveys were used for Tax purposes & we saw hand coloured charts with letters used to denote buildings with their precise description in a ‘code’ i.e. house B&T- meaning a house made of brick & tile & numbers used as reference to areas of land large & small.

Surveyors would visit a site & take detailed descriptions of all buildings & measure land & an appropriate rate of tax was realised.

After the 1914 war large estates were often broken up to pay death duties, & in1920 the rating office took over.

Often rate books can be found in the local archives giving details of owner /occupiers, the address & description & valuation of a property & the rates paid.

As Liz explained if you knew where a relative lived you could, through the rate book, & with the reference numbers, find out if they owned the property where they lived, if land was attached & a description of the house.

The field book, again available in archives, would give detailed description of the physical condition of the house, the number of rooms & would give the value of the property, land & easements i,e, paths & poles etc – the value & whether the owner agreed to the result of the valuation.. This talk was very informative & the large Walsoken Rate book 1925, on loan to our Society,& Liz’s maps etc were on display & helped us to understand the rating system.

No meeting in August but important dates for us are;

14th Sept. Heritage Day at the Octavia Hill Museum Wisbech, where the society will have displays of local well known people & offer help with research.

26th Sept . Our AGM followed by a talk by our President Wim Zwalf

28th Sept. Our Family History Day form 10am - 4pm in St Peters Church Hall Wisbech

Our own members will be there to do look ups & give advice, plus visiting Family History Societies, Help in our local Museum to use their facilities & the local Library where there will be lessons on how to use the internet & the library facilities & also on line help for Military questions.

Refreshments available all day.

[Barbara Holmes]

Sep 2013

THE HISTORY OF EDUCATION FOR FAMILY HISTORY - Maureen Nichols

Wim Zwalf should have been our speaker after our AGM but the birth of a new granddaughter called himself & his wife away, to look after the family.

As the Society was aware that this occasion may coincide with his talk Bridget had an alternative speaker on standby.

A sharp knocking drew our attention to the speaker’s table & there in the guise of a teacher was Maureen Nichols.

“Good evening children” said teacher. “Good evening Mrs Nichols” we replied in the familiar sing song way of children. ‘Now sit up straight & no talking, we are going to talk about education!”

Maureen stated off in the 18th century when teaching was done in Latin grammar & only boys attended school & payment was required.

Universities were established with Oxford being the first, followed by Cambridge.

King Edward V1 established three Grammar schools free to those who could not pay.

In 1780 Robert Bailes commenced a Sunday school in Gloucester where the pupils attended church from 10am to 12 noon for lessons & in the afternoon repeated the Catechism until 5pm.

Maureen then spoke of Ragged schools which took in destitute boys & taught them a trade for free, although sometimes a few pennies were found towards the cost by the family. Later schools also admitted girls.

There were Dame schools which Maureen described more as a childminding service. The older pupils taught the younger ones &, in some cases these pupil teachers went on to become teachers. Red brick schools, appeared first in Liverpool, so called for the colour of the building bricks, & not thought of too highly as the name was often used in a derogatory term.

In 1880 the Law stated that all children between the ages of 5 to 10 years must attend school to be taught the basics of reading, writing & arithmetic & school boards were set up. In the 19th century. The University college of London was established in 1826 & Kings college in Durham.

In 1944 the Tripartite system was established, the grammar schools where academic subjects were taught, secondary schools where pupils were taught practical skills & secondary technical schools where pupils were taught scientific & technical skills .

Maureen mentioned special places of education such as Harrow where the speciality was sport.

There are school records such as admission lists, names of teachers, attendance records & punishment books available at local museums & libraries & some can be found in Record Offices.

At the end of Maureen’s talk we ‘children’ were invited to tell our own school day stories. These were many & varied, from having blackboard rubbers thrown at us, being rapped across the knuckles with a ruler, suffering the cane, & being made to stand in the corner.

It was also mentioned that 2 weeks off school were given to children, legally, so that they could help with the potato & strawberry harvesting.

Maureen’s talk took us down memory lane & she is awarded 10 out of 10 & a gold star!

Our speaker for October is Vicky Howling .

Her talk is called - My Family & Barroway Drove.

28 Sep 2013

FENLAND FAMILY HISTORY DAY. 2013

We were pleased to see the sun shining as we opened the doors on our Family History day on September 28th. The many visiting Societies soon had their displays ready & a steady stream of visitors throughout the day made all the hard work of organising by Bridget, the committee & our helpers, worthwhile.

Visitors were greeted at the reception desk & advice was available to direct them to the various venues.

This year we combined our day with the facilities available at the Wisbech Library & the Wisbech & Fenland Museum close by St. Peter’s Church Hall.

The museum holds film of registers of all the local churches as does the library,

The library staff gave talks on how to use their facilities for family research.

Martin Edwards was also based in the library, where he was able to get on line for research of all things military & was kept very busy.

In the large hall the various visiting Societies offered specific help covering their own areas & Tom Doig gave his interpretation on old family photographs. Brian Jones was able to give advice from his vast knowledge & In the smaller hall our own society members had fiche & reader, lap tops & printers & were able to help several people.

To sustain us through the day Linda kept us all supplied with refreshing cups of tea & coffee & there were delicious Ploughman’s lunches & cakes for sale.

It was very pleasing to hear the kind comments from all the people who had been helped during the day.

A date for your diary,

Our next Fenland Family History Day will be September 27th 2014.

[Barbara Holmes]

Oct 2013

MY FAMILY & BARROWAY DROVE - Vicky Howling.

In earlier times Barroway Drove was in the fen marsh, but on higher ground & dry during the summer months. The land was eventually improved by drains known as tongs. The village is mainly one long straight road.

Vicky said she had always lived in Barroway Drove except for a few months, after which she was glad to come home. She had always been interested in family & local history, and after speaking to her father & doing some research she found, as we all have, that it took a lot of her time.

She got married & when the children were at school, she spent time with her like-minded friend researching & visits to the Norfolk record office, & found her roots back to Gt.Gt.Gt G parents living In the Drove, which was often referred to as the Fen.

Vicky gathered stories from her father & local people & this enhanced her knowledge of the history of Barroway Drove. It was previously known as Bardolph Fen & to enhance his self esteem the lord of the manor decided he needed more recognition for his work & decided to name the place Lords Drove & Lady drove. The locals didn’t accept the name Lords drove & decided to call the place Barroway Drove (although Lady drove still exists) the name thought to derive from the lattice wheel barrows that men used to carry peat out of the drove towards Nordelph & eventually to the barges at Welle.

At the time of the Queens Golden Jubilee she hit on the idea of celebrating this with a pictorial display of local people, buildings & events in the village hall. Helped by her friend and the local school children during the summer holidays, models were made of their homes & various buildings & laid out on a plan of the Drove. The event proved very successful.

There was a tale of a murder in the village in the early 1900’s, but as with all stories told through time the facts were often enhanced. Vicky researched the occurrence & found a newspaper report which said that the man coming home from the pub, died in coma after a head injury which was caused by being pushed over.

In 1944 a plane crashed in fields nearby killing the pilot - again researched by Vicky.

Vicky said that the local Church & chapels, post office, shops & pub have all gone or closed & the only facility left is the village hall.

She hopes one day to write a booklet about Barroway drove to sell, the proceeds going toward the village hall, and her research continues.

She brought with her a marvellous collection - many pictures, reports, census, maps & drainage plans which the members & guests enjoyed looking at & it seemed that some of the members were able to give Vicky more history of Barroway drove.

Our November meeting is the festive social gathering with a buffet, a quiz, displays of War memorabilia & the displays which were on show at the Octavia centre for Heritage weekend.

[Barbara Holmes]

Barroway Drove History. - Vicky Howling

Barroway Drove is a small, elongated village just outside Downham Market, in Norfolk,and Vicky Howling has lived there for most of her life [apart from a few months spent in King’s Lynn] and her family have lived there since the early 1800’s.

Her G.G.G.Grandfather had a house built there for his retirement in 1886, so several generations of the family have been raised in the village.

Vicky spent a lot of her formative years in the company of her Grandmother, who had many tales and stories to tell her, but she died when Vicky was 17.

Although she enjoyed and remembers many of the tales, Vicky regrets not asking more questions at the time.

When she married in 1989, Vicky moved into her Grandmother’s house filled with lots of family memorabilia.

Some time in 2002 at a meeting in the village hall a Jubilee Committee was formed and Vicky was part of that committee.

The project was to organise a display of the history of Barroway Drove, and Vicky and a friend set about collecting as much information concerning the village as possible.

Her father had many old photos, as well as a vast store of memories to start them on their way.

There followed many trips to Norwich to look up details in the Norfolk Records as less information was available on the internet in those days.

The Display proved very popular at the Jubilee event, and other people added points of interest for Vicky to follow up.

Vicky has taken her village display to other venues, and her next project or aim is to write a booklet about her findings, possibly by 2014.

But researching village or family history is an on –going situation, and Vicky became so engrossed in the local history that she has continued expanding her research, and has traced events going back to the late 1500’s. These include:

The state of the surrounding land, mostly waterlogged during the winter months until some drainage work was carried out before 1600.[ So before the main drainage of the Fens carried out in 1650 ].

The various owners of the land including the Beaupre Estate and the Hare Estate. How the various lanes came to be named, Lords Drove and Lady Drove.

The Tong Drains and their uses. The lattice work barrows used to transport the peat away, and probably the source of the name ‘Barroway Drove’.

Not to mention the many and varied tales, both true and not necessarily entirely true, which abounded over the years.

One of these tales concerning a ‘murder’, may have further repercussions, as the newly elected Chairman of the Fenland Family History Society hastened home after the meeting to inform her unsuspecting husband that there was evidence of murder in his family.!! So watch this space, there may yet be a sequel to the Barroway Drove History.

[Judy Green]

Nov 2013

Xmas Social Evening

This month’s meeting, being the last before Christmas, was our festive gathering. The evening was made more special, as presentations were made to the outgoing Treasurer, and also to our outgoing chairman and membership secretary. Bridget and Peter Hunter, founded the society 12 years ago in their living room, and it has grown ever since. Both were made Honorary members, to thank them both for their work over the years, and Bridget was also asked to be vice president.

This month’s speaker was Christine Pike, project curator, who told us of a project which uses some of the themes and imagery from the poem Beowulf. as a starting point to collate a number of photographs, poetry, prose and spoken word of the Fens. This would then be used to make a travelling exhibition and a book. The exhibition would travel to March, Wisbech, Ely and Welney during 2015.

A photographer called Rebecca Green will be spending a year exploring the Fens and uncovering some of the stories associated with the people who live and work on the Fens and drawing a parallel with the poem of Beowulf. A selection of her work and publics writing will be presented in a book which will be also abled to be downloaded

The project also hopes to be able to run some creative writing workshops for people who have a family connection with the Fens which goes back two or three generation. These workshops are free(time dates be arranged in early 2014)

So if you have any stories to tell or photographs that sums up what the Fenland area means to you please contact Christine.Pike@adec.org.uk Tel 01353 616995

The evening concluded with a flora and fauna quiz, and festive food. May I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

[Malcolm Bailey]

2012

January 2012

In Search of a Hero

The speaker for the January meeting was Catherine Bettinson, talking about her search for a Hero from Korea, who was linked to her family.

The search took her on several visits to various research departments in Britain as well as two trips to Korea, in search of the hero, George Lewis Shaw.

In the process she uncovered distant family links to George Bernard Shaw and Ian Duncan Smith, as well as families of Japanese origin, as there were both Japanese and Korean brides in the chain.

The painstaking research took Catherine about 15 years to complete, with many false trails at the start. Confusion over the birth place of G L Shaw was one problem, but eventually he was placed as born in Castle Wellan in Londonderry, not in London as at first informed. Many such inaccuracies, or lack of information hindered the research, but Catherine was not easily put off from the challenge.

Just as she thought she had covered all aspects of the story she would be asked, by the Koreans to find further information.

It appeared that George Lewis Shaw had been instrumental in helping Korea gain independence from Japan, although he died in Nov 1943, just 2 years before independence was finally achieved, and there was a memorial in his honour in Korea which the Koreans were keen to maintain.

However, it would not do to tell the entire story here, as a screen play is to be made of the story, and one would not want to spoil the story for others who would be well advised to see the play if at all possible.

[Judy Green]

February 2012

Welsh Miners in Russia

The speaker for the evening was John Steel, and his subject was “Welsh Miners in Russia”.

John had been trying to trace his grandfather for several years, with little success, and finally put an advert on line, asking if anyone could tell him about his Steel family from South Wales.

He had no reply for two or three years, and had almost given up hope of ever tracing his grandfather, when one day he had a reply to his advert.

Albert Steel contacted him and said he thought he might be a cousin to John, and provided information to enable John to find the birth certificate of his great grandfather.

It appeared that John’s grandmother had been an unmarried mother, who left her son with her parents, and then left the scene.

Further research into the Steel family revealed that they had been among a group of Welsh iron and steel workers, who had been recruited by John Hughes

(a British engineer and surveyor) to go to Russia to set up an Iron and Steel Works in 1874.

The men folk went out first to try and establish the business, and their wives and families followed about a year later.

The township which they established was called “Hughesovka” in the province of Ekaterinoslav, South Russia.

Little of this story would have been known, had not the daughter of one of the first group of pioneers written down her memories of those years.

We were read extracts “From the Memoirs of Leah Steel and her experiences in Old Russia 1874 – 1917” in which Leah told how they were given the protection of a company of Cossack Soldiers, to protect them from the bands of outlaws, brigands and robbers who roamed the unpopulated area of virgin territory where the new steelworks were situated.

She also told how quite a large British Colony developed over the years, with a School and Church, with full time teachers and minister, also a Social Club for concerts and other entertainment.

However, when the Communists finally took over in Russia in 1917, Leah, her husband and children, along with many other British families, decided to leave Russia for good, and return to their native land.

After a gruelling journey from Russia through Finland, Sweden and Norway to Bergen, they finally boarded a ship for Scotland. The ship, the “Vulture”, was camouflaged from top to bottom, and they were escorted out into the North Sea by two British destroyers, sweeping the mines ahead to give them safe passage to Aberdeen where their approach was guided by two airplanes overhead.

From Aberdeen they travelled by train to St Pancras Station, and were just going to get refreshments when they were rushed down the Sub-way by police as there were 30 German planes overhead, bombing London. That was 7th July 1917, or Black Saturday, as it was to be called. Finally they got a train to Bedford, where they and many more of the returning families settled.

A fascinating story, which might never have been told if Leah Steel had not written it all down in 1940.

John Steel very kindly allowed us to make a copy of all Leah Steel’s notes, so the members of the Fenland Family History Society will be able to read the whole story at their leisure.

It may be possible to print instalments of the story in the Ag Lab Journal during the year if John Steel agrees to the idea.

[Judy Green]

March 2012

A Few Ideas on How to Illustrate Your Family History

Maureen Nicholls described her talk as “A Few Ideas on How to Illustrate Your Family History”, even if there was very little photographic evidence to help you.

As Maureen pointed out, some people base their work on the Genealogy [the facts available] while others go for the more interesting line of Family History with photographs and stories to illustrate their work.

No photo’s !! Then illustrate the kind of life they would have led. Schools, Churches, Villages, Houses etc. Occupations, the clothes they wore, the food they ate.

What was happening in the world at the time they were living. World history year by year since 1492. [where possible providence of where information came from].

The pictures used need not be of your actual family members, but of others of the same era, to illustrate the type of dress, house, transport etc. of their times.

If you know where they lived then a picture of a Church / Chapel or other view from that town.

A School photo with pupils would show the dress at a particular age, and probably include the teacher in adult clothing of the time.

Occupation: Ag. Lab photos etc. Crofters, Frame Work Knitters, Fishermen. If you know their occupations, illustrations from different periods can be found in books, on postcards etc.

Food: Did they live by a river, the seas, in farming areas, near forests, all would give guidance as to basic foods available.

Certificates: Any available family certificates of any kind, especially unusual ones e.g. Coroners reports, all add to the interest of the Family.

Forces: Commonwealth Graves Committee, war photos; Navy; Boats names , Shipping lists, Naval lists, and photos of naval vessels.

Aeroplanes: photos of various aircraft of the same type.

Burials: Church records, war memorials, monumental inscriptions etc.

Presentations:
1. Paper presentation; Printed Book, Booklet, Folder
2. Computer; Hard drive; Back – Up; C.D. ; Memory Stick; Website.
3. Art & Craft: Cross Stitch; Scrap Books; Time – Line Poster; Quilting; Heraldic etc.

Maureen’s final words: Do It Your Way & Enjoy It.

A very interesting and entertaining talk, enjoyed by all.

After the refreshment interval, Maureen gave a quick resume of working with “Family Tree Maker”, for the benefit of those new to working with Family History software.

Using her own family records she talked us through the various ways of recording the data we might have collected, and explained why she had recorded family names in certain ways.

The main line through a family always entered in Capitals,[both names] makes searching for members much easier. While all surnames were entered in Capitals.

Even for the ‘old hands’ there were new ideas to be picked up, and I am sure I was not the only one to go home and make minor adjustments to the way information had been entered in my Family Tree.

[Judy Green]

April 2012

THE CAVE FAMILY & THEIR DNA. A One name Study.

DNA = Deoxyribonucleic acid - Is a nucleic acid containing the genetic instructions used in the development & functioning of all know living organisms.

The DNA test involves scraping the inside of the mouth at the cheek & sending the sample to the lab.

A One Name Study involves collecting information about people with the same surname & X matching names/ information to create direct family lines.

Hugh Cave has taken this one step further & establishing true family ties by DNA testing. It involves all the same name people taking the DNA test.

At this point Hugh suggested that there are firms which don’t produce such good results as others i.e. tests are produced with less markers than the 37 shown in tests displayed by Hugh, & that most people taking the test do so purely to find their tribal origins i.e. whether their forefathers came from Africa, Asia or Europe etc.

We have all heard of DNA testing, possibly to prove the paternity of a child. Hugh Cave our speaker at the April meeting talked about DNA testing to prove the relationships in his one name study of CAVE. This was possibly something he probably would not have done had he realised the over whelming amount of work involved. Never–the-less with the aid of graphs, lists, pictorial displays he took us through the complicated process of understanding XX (female) & XY (male) chromosomes & that the Y chromosome is passed only through father to son & the X mitochondria through the female line to both sexes. After this it became rather complicated but we understood that to prove you belonged to a certain family the DNA markers (37 of them) had to match.

The ‘fun’ starts when people who think they belong have DNA that does not match. As stated in Hugh’s case when a man said he was Hugh’s cousin only to be told his DNA did not match so therefore was not related. He said the investigations started in the opposite way to normal family history research which start with ourselves & work backwards.

He established family as far back as 1232 by various documents & records of herald’s visitations.

It was interesting to hear that at one time there was no such thing as a surname but when people started to move away they often adopted the name of their trade or their birthplace, to identify themselves from others with the same first name.

Hugh said the name de Cave possibly came from people living in the village of Cave but that they were not necessarily blood related.

Hugh has said that some one name organisations have on their staff a trauma councillor to cope with the ‘back lash‘from people who are upset etc about the results of the DNA testing.

I think we all understood that having the same surname did not mean you belonged to a family.

He also said that DNA testing was ‘very now’ as with situations such as one parent families with multiple fathers, sperm donations, IVF, surrogate mothers & illegitimacy, it will be virtually impossible to prove relationships. & that many a Cave line has been disrupted by illegitimacy & even possible incest. Hugh answered many questions whilst we took light refreshments our heads spinning with information.

Our May speaker is our well known friend Brian Jones with a new talk on Kings,Queens & Jubilees.

[Barbara Holmes ]

May 2012

English Kings and Queens, Their Coronations and Occasional Jubilees.  

This was the title of the talk given to the members at the May meeting by Brian Jones, as he took us through the many crowned heads of the English, England, Great Britain, The Commonwealth and India, with the usual audience participation !!

Starting in 802 with the coronation of Egbert, the first King of the English who reigned for 37 years, followed by Ethelwulf, then Athelstan [the first King of England]; Edwig and Canute crowned in 1016.

To accompany the dates were also illustrations of the early kings and their consorts, some not exactly flattering, but the camera – sorry painter - never lies !!

One early king went missing from his coronation feast, and was eventually found in bed with his girl friend and her mother. The earliest ‘Menage A Trois’ perhaps.!!

In 1066 was the first coronation of the present day style, when William !st. [the Conqueror] was crowned on Christmas Day in Westminster Abbey. As three cheers were raised for the new King inside the Abbey, his Norman troops outside heard the rousing shouts , and fearing an uprising against their Duke, set fire to all the houses surrounding the Abbey.

A second coronation to include his Queen Consort, Matilda of Flanders, passed off with less excitement. William reigned for 21 years, and divided his lands between his sons, giving Normandy and Maine to Robert and England to William ll [Rufus] who reigned for only 13 years.

Henry Beauclerc,[ ‘Good Scholar’ in French] the youngest son of William lst, immediately took over the Treasury and had himself crowned King, 4 days after the death of his elder brother.

Such was the uncertainty of succession in the earlier centuries that one King took the precaution of crowning his infant son during his own lifetime to ensure the succession, but fate took a hand and the son died before the father. Another King was forced to borrow some silk stockings for his own Coronation as he was to poor to purchase some for himself !!

Over the years the form of the Coronations became more elaborate, Richard ll had a procession through London, and the language of the ceremony eventually changed from Latin or French to English for the Coronation of Elizabeth l. Also few of the earlier Kings reigned for many years, either being killed in battle, deposed or suffering early death by natural causes, but Elizabeth saw her silver jubilee of 25 years, but died 5 years short of her golden jubilee.

Charles ll was the first King of Great Britain and Ireland. He was followed by William and Mary who reigned together as King and Queen, because William refused to be a mere Consort.

After Queen Ann, who had no living heirs, the Hanoverian, George l, great grandson of James l [of England] and cousin of Ann ascended the English throne in 1714.

He was succeeded by his son George ll who was the first king to celebrate a Silver Jubilee, while George lll reigned for 59 years so was able to celebrate both silver and golden jubilees, although his son was Regent for the last 9 years.

When George lll, died his son, The Prince Regent, or ‘Prinny’ as he was known, was crowned in the most elaborate and expensive Coronation yet to have been seen. His outfit was flamboyant in the extreme and was finished off by a 27 foot long train, carried by men of noble birth. His wife Caroline,who was locked out of the Abbey, on orders of George, ran from door to door trying to gain entrance to the ceremony. She died only a few days later.

William lV, known as the Sailor King, had no children and his heiress was the Princess Victoria. William managed to remain alive until Victoria reached the age of 18 years, when she was able to dispense with the attentions of her power seeking mother, and rule as she wished after the death of her uncle. Victoria was Queen of Great Britain and Empress of India. She celebrated three jubilees during her long reign, Silver, Golden and Diamond.

Victoria was followed by her son Edward Vll and his Consort Queen Alexandra, who were followed in turn by George V and Queen Mary.

After George came his elder son Edward Vlll and preparations were made for his Coronation in 1936. However, much to the dismay of every one, Edward did the unthinkable and abdicated before the event could take place. His shy younger brother Albert was persuaded to take over as King, and was crowned as George Vl in a ceremony which took place on the day originally planned for Edward’s coronation.

Much of the commemorative memorabilia pieces were re-used as Edward was cleverly ‘air-brushed ‘ out and George’s face super-imposed on the original body.

This year sees the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of our present Queen Elizabeth.

Long May She Reign!!

[Judy Green]

June 2012

Visit to St. Magdalene Church

Linda Brighton organised the Society’s June meeting which was held at the Church dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, Fleet near Holbeach Lincs & not to be confused with a church with the same name at Gedney a few miles away.

On a fine sunny evening 17 members, guests & friends listened to a talk by the church warden on the history of the church & were then taken to see the stone imp above the choir stall.

The church was built prior to 1245 & rebuilt last in 1860-1862. The inside of the church was restored in 1911.

As with some fen churches, when the ground was not strong enough to support the tower on top of the church, the old tower is found separate to the church.

A large grave yard surrounds the church. The brave amongst the visitors climbed the tower, and waved to their friends below. The view from the top was remarkable.

Several days before this visit the church held a wedding & christening display. The wedding gowns were many & varied & needless to say very beautiful. Each gown had a photo & printed history about the bride & groom placed beside it. One dress was made from parachute silk & another very delicate pale blue dress was 80+ years old. The church was also adorned with wedding hats & christening robes, 2 made from left over fabric from the bride’s dress. A cake stall, raffle & refreshments were also available.

As part of this celebration our Society displayed wedding & christening photos which had been loaned by members & copied by Peter. Set out by Bridget & Linda it was fascinating to see how the fashions had changed over the years. Added to this display Peter set up a continual slide display of photos & these caught the attention of many of the visitors.

A delightful well preserved church -well worth a visit.

The speaker for our July meeting is Mike Petty on Following History through newspapers

[Barbara Holmes]

July 2012

FOLLOWING HISTORY THROUGH PAST NEWSPAPERS. MIKE PETTY

We all read our daily newspapers to keep up to date with current affairs, sport, to study our stocks & shares, to read our star signs & much more.

Mike Petty our speaker has long been involved in the study of the Cambridgeshire newspapers & writes columns for such newspapers as the Cambridge weekly news & has his own web site. At our July meeting he took us back to the origins of all newspapers in Cambridgeshire which gave us much more local news. He read off lists of Newspaper titles that have come & gone over the years from 1762 & told where we can find copies in various forms.

Originally news papers or hard copies were searched but progress has taken us to reading them on micro film & fiche.

The major source of availability of these papers are found in the series of the Newsplan report published by the British Library Newspaper library & are available on line.

Newsplan volumes are arranged by county & then by title.

Cambridge University Library holds a wide range of papers from local to international editions, & the Cambridgeshire Collection in the Lion Yard Library in Cambridge have been involved in the Newsplan & have now microfilms of virtually all the Cambridgeshire newspapers.

Mike told us that ‘what is news today is history tomorrow’. The first indexing of newspapers in 1850 took the form of cuttings taken from papers & filed in Cambridge under 750 different topics. The cuttings saved time as a person did not have to trawl through a whole newspaper if he wished to look at something significant.

Locally village news was eventually hand written onto index cards & can be found in local libraries. There is a good example of these in the Wisbech Library - each card filed under the village name. There are also, in the Wisbech library, a good collection of film, covering the Star of the East, segments of which appear monthly in our Journal & the Wisbech Standard which also has a card index of news from our villages from 1888-1926.

A fascinating talk which we hope will help our readers with their family & social history research.

Our next event is our Annual Family History Day on September 22nd in St. Peter’s Hall in Wisbech from 10am with lots of help from specialists, visiting family history societies & our own members.

Our AGM is on September 27th.

[Barbara Holmes]

2011

January 2011

OLD WISBECH

Kevin Rogers & his slide show of old Wisbech brought back many memories to those members who had lived in & around the town all their lives.

Not only was he able to show many photos of the really old scenes of Wisbech, but he brought the Wisbech of our youth back to mind. The Wisbech of the war years & later, including our school years, brought back the most memories, if the comments from the audience were anything to go by, with some of the older shops in their original form, before modernisation: the Onyx cinema; the Octogaon Church, both now long demolished.

St. Peter’s School, The Horsefair with the Fire Station, & old cottages, even a circus there: the cannon, all of which were part of the bus route that most of the out of town school children knew so well, whether they travelled by Eastern Counties, Bluebell or Fowlers buses.

Also seen were slides of the Upwell to Wisbech tram, especially the lines crossing the road at Elm Road and the Blacksmiths Arms – how many people got their cycle wheels caught in the lines where they crossed the road, especially in the wet or Icy weather?

Not only were the photos of historical interest, but the stories Kevin told about the people connected with some of them brought the pictures alive, and many were the names which we remembered from the past.

To me at least & I’m sure to many others, it was a nostalgic evening of lovely memories which I will remember with pleasure.

The February meeting is about the Nonconformists of the Fens by our ever popular speaker Brian Jones.

[Judy Green]

February 2011

NON-CONFORMISTS OF THE FENS

After being asked ‘how many religions are there’ & several guesses made by the audience -our ever popular Brian Jones told us that there ‘only two- those that accepted the Church & those that didn’t’.

The Roman Catholic faith was the only religion practised openly until Henry 8th decided to alter things so that he could divorce Katharine of Aragon & to achieve his wish he separated himself from papist Rome & made himself Head of the Anglican church- the protestants- & got his divorce.

The time came when the non - conformists divided amongst them - selves so that today we have Congregationalists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Independents, Quakers & many more. The Methodists are even further divided.

Brian explained that the non conformists did not agree with the ‘practices & usages’ of the established church such as the Mass, & the Sacraments. Another reason for the divisions was more easily understood when the people objected to paying Tithes to the priest who ‘appeared to do very little work’.

The different subsets came about because of deep thinking, spiritual men such as Wesley, James Parnell, George Fox, Samuel Cater & many others, who had the power & gift of speech to persuade the people to follow their thinking & preaching.

These men were also travellers who would visit many places spreading the word. Consequently chapels were built for worship & the conducting of Weddings Baptisms & Funerals. There are non conformists records available & much information can be gleaned from things like a church year book.

The information Brian gave us was overwhelming but had us very interested in what is & can be a very controversial & complicated subject.

Our March meeting is a holdover from last year & has a Quiz, a talk by Pete Edwards about Crimes & Misdemeanours in the Fens, a photo display of childhood school & holidays & a buffet. You are requested to bring your photos along & a plate of finger food for the buffet.

[Barbara Holmes]

March 2011

MEMBERS EVENING & BUFFET

The March meeting started our 10th Anniversary celebrations & they will continue with planned events for the year.

Chairperson Bridget outlined plans for a garden party, walks around Wisbech & Peterborough & a visit to Burleigh house. She also mentioned our Family History Day on September 17th which we shall try to make special. Kevin Rogers was there to take the names of people wishing to go on the Wisbech walk. We then found that the speaker had failed to show up, so a quick reorganisation of the evening was needed.

There were already many photos of our school days & holidays brought in & displayed by members & they caused quite a bit of amusement –especially seeing members in there ‘cossies’ !

The book stall was manned by Ann Burton.

We then proceeded to the bar & buffet & were soon enjoying good food supplied by members & drinks supplied by the Society. Also of note was a beautiful Anniversary sponge decorated with the Society tree emblem & miniature dolls in clothes of various occupations. This was made by member Ann le Fort, who cut the cake toward the end of the evening.

There was a written quiz & soon people were seen conferring & exchanging ideas as to the answers.

Bridget then asked if anyone would give a short talk on Holidays. Member Maureen Nicholls entertained us with her job as a Wages clerk in a holiday camp with employed many Spanish Staff.

Not understanding Spanish & realising that many of the staff had similar surnames she decided to make life easier for herself by giving each Spanish member of staff his own number starting with ‘numero uno’ this system apparently worked very well. She also mentioned some of the ‘goings on’ that occurred but would not elaborate on them. She also mentioned that staff got bigger meals than the holiday makers.

Bridget spoke of a holiday to the Orkneys where she & Peter arrived by plane which landed in a cow field. They were there to search for family grave stones .Not knowing anyone, they wondered how they would survive the day on a very small island, when the friendly natives appeared, took them in hand, & gave them a memorable time. Bridget said they arrived on the Island alone & left with friends & new found family members waving them off.

The next meeting is on April 28th. Mike Petty will be speaking to us about Fenland Family History on computers

[Barbara Holmes]

April 2011

FENLAND FAMILY HISTORY ON COMPUTERS

At the beginning of our April meeting Mike Petty picked up a book - The Victoria County History of Cambridge & asked a large audience if anyone possessed this book. Needless to say no one had & this led Mike to ask how many of us had computers & the internet & most of the audience put their hands up, so without more ado Mike told us that we do have this book via our computers & this was the basis of his very informative talk.

Mike told how he visited Cambridge public library & ‘found a door’ & ‘being nosey‘ he opened it & found a room heavily stocked with books about Cambridgeshire. On further investigation he found the books in no specific order & it soon became obvious to him that the books hadn’t been touched for years.

Employed as a librarian Mike took it upon himself to read many of the books & found out so much that it became his ‘life’s work’. He then went on to demonstrate that virtually any book can be read on our computers, as can old newspapers, parliamentary documents, maps & much more.

He told how he can access special books through particular sites such as the Cambridgeshire University Library, but all who had a local library card could also get connected.

Mike, who is a lecturer, writer, broadcaster & an historian gave us so much information that we were pleased to see that he had produced a comprehensive list of many sites available to us.

In his light-hearted way of presenting the information we found we had had a most enjoyable evening & Mike answered questions whilst light refreshments were served.

Our may Speaker Is Peter Wadlow, Church Warden of Walsoken Church who will speak on a Wedding, a Funeral & a Bazaar held at the church in times past.

[Barbara Holmes]

May 2011

WALSOKEN CHURCH. A WEDDING, A BAZAAR & A FUNERAL - 19TH CENTURY EVENTS

The speaker this month was Peter Wadlow, who has been the Church Warden at Walsoken Church for the past 30 years, as well as being a teacher for 40 years.

Peter was born in Walsoken, and through his work as a Church Warden has become fascinated by registers, and what they tell us about the lives of people in earlier centuries.

As there are registers dating back from 1558 to 2011 in the Church, he has plenty of scope to keep his interest alive.

The three topics which Peter chose to illustrate his talk were a local Bazaar in Wisbech, a Wedding at Walsoken Church, and the Funeral of a local dignitary, also at Walsoken Church.

The Bazaar was to raise funds for the restoration of Walsoken Church, and was held over three days [ Friday 31st December 1858 to Sunday 2nd January 1859 ] in the new Corn Exchange in Wisbech.

Items for sale were collected by the townsfolk, and a band was to provide entertainment during the weekend of the sale. The centre-piece was a wedding cake with a gold ring hidden inside for the lucky winner. The Mayor donated a quantity of coal, which was purchased by the Vicar and distributed amongst the poor. There was also a private donation of £500 from the Vicar and a local Ship owner.

It would appear that the Vicar had dug deeply into his own pocket to swell the funds.

The wedding of Miss Fanny Jackson of Walsoken House, to Rev. John Charles Molineaux took place in April 1878 . Miss Jackson was a Sunday School Teacher at the Church, and on the day before her wedding was presented with an inscribed Teapot from the children of the Sunday School. The Wedding on the Tuesday saw the bride, attired in her white wedding dress, walk to the Church through an archway of evergreen at the gate. The only floral decorations in the church were the Alter flowers, and hymn 212, ‘The voice that breathed o’er Eden, was sung.

As the happy couple left on their wedding tour they were ‘showered with shoes’, a tradition of those times.

The funeral was that of Richard Youngs of Wisbech, a ship owner, farmer and M.P. for Cambridgeshire, a real rags to riches personality, who died aged 63 years.

As the Victorians had a great fascination with death the funeral of a local dignitary was a big event in Wisbech.

The funeral procession from Osborn House, the home of the deceased, to the Church included Mutes for the funeral dressed in black with faces painted white, Police , Oddfellows, Clergy, Ministers of the town, the Mayor and Corporation, then 6 mourning coaches. This was an all male occasion as women were not expected to attend such affairs in those days. The route was lined with 10,000 people.

Peter mentioned that members of Richard Youngs family are still in active contact with the Church to the present day.

[Judy Green]

June 2011

Garden Party as part of our 10th Anniversary Celebrations

The Fenland Family History Society’s June meeting took the form of a Garden Party as part of our 10th Anniversary Celebrations. The event was held at the Octavia Hill Museum, in Wisbech, and nearly 40 members attended, including a couple from Ireland. After a talk by Peter Clayton, of the Octavia Hill Museum, giving a brief history of Octavia and her work in Wisbech and other parts of the country, the members were able to explore the museum, before gathering in the Tea Room and Garden for refreshments of scones with jam and cream, followed by strawberries and cream and Pimms or Elderflower Wine, all provided by the committee.

The Mayor and Mayoress of Wisbech (both members of the F F H S ) were in attendance along with the Mayor’s Beadle. The Mayor spoke of the work of the Society and wished them well for the next decade.

Many members came in costume depicting the occupations of their Ancestors and these outfits included a Crinoline, a Milkmaid, a School Teacher, a Governess, a Shepherd, a Farmer and a Train Driver.

The weather was warm, so the gardens could be used to full advantage by the members, and a very enjoyable evening was had by all.

The next meeting on July 28th will be a talk by Tom Doig, our very first Speaker, whom we welcome back to tell us about ‘Births and Baptisms in the 1800’s. Tom is an Author and Researcher of Local, Social and Family History, and we look forward to his talk with interest.

[Judy Green]

July 2011

Birth & Baptisms in the 1800's

Tom Doig gave his usual informative and amusing talk on the chosen topic of “Births and Baptisms in the 1800’s” with particular reference to the ‘Ag. Labs’, as he thought most of the audience would have some in their background. The broad coverage of the subject made particular reference to the events nine months preceding the birth, the calling of the banns, the marriage, the 4 week lying in period, the eventual birth and later churching of the mother and finally the baptism of the child. Tom detailed the various stages from banns to baptisms with many amusing anecdotes along the way, proving that there is nothing new under the sun, in so far as every day life is concerned !!

In 1732 and ancient author wrote: “ The principle causes of matrimony are these two: Increase of children; and Avoiding fornication and of uncleanliness.” Has it worked!!

In the 1800’s there was no stigma attached to a very pregnant bride being joined in holy matrimony to her, sometimes reluctant, groom. Even the parents liked to know that their intended daughter-in-law was fertile, and able to produce a future generation to help care for them in their old age. Some times there was barely time after the wedding for the obligatory 4 week lying-in period, and occasionally more than one pregnancy might take place before the banns were called, or even a baptism take place. If a child was not baptised until after the marriage of the parents, it could not be listed as a ‘bastard’ in the church records, although the vicar might list the actual date of the birth in the margin of the records,[ for the use of future generations doing ‘Family History Research’!! ]

Banns needed to called on three consecutive Sundays, after the church service, and recorded in a formal register. It was not the task of the vicar to call the banns, this was undertaken by the Parish Clerk.

If there was a break in the calling of the banns, it was believed that some misfortune might befall the child, causing it to be an idiot or imbecile. After the third calling of the banns the groom would leave the church to claim his bride who would be waiting outside, [women were not allowed to hear the calling of their banns] as to all intents and purpose they were married [a secular marriage] or ‘over the brush’, and a church marriage need not necessarily take place, but usually the marriage took place the following week.

Four weeks before the baby was due the ‘monthly nurse’ arrived to oversee the confinement, but she did not attend the birthing, the mid-wife attended to that procedure. It was the job of the monthly nurse to see that the mother-to-be remained in bed and in good condition for the birth. To prevent thrombosis, leeches were applied to the patient’s legs. Should the mother die during the confinement it was listed as ‘dying in childbed’, and if she died during the birth it was classed as ‘dying in childbirth’.

The new mother was not supposed to go into society until she had been ‘churched’ or ‘cleansed’, after which she could resume normal life in the community.

The baptism could take place at any time convenient to the parents, unless the child was sickly, in which case the baptism might be performed privately at home in case the child died suddenly. At times the vicar would encourage all parents of new babies to have their children baptised en-mass, prior to the inspection of the Church Records by the local bishop.

The next meeting of the Fenland Family History Society is on Thursday 22nd September which is the A.G.M. and the speaker will be our President, Rev. Canon Wim Zwalf.

Prior to that date there will be the Family History Day on Saturday 17th September, at St Peter’s Church Hall. Doors open at 10:00 a.m.

[Judy Green]

Sep 2011

AGM followed by "Don’t let the Bastards get you down!!"

A.G.M. notes are available here in .pdf format.

The speaker for the evening was our own President, Wim Zwalf, and the chosen subject was “Don’t let the Bastards get you down!!”

Wim began with the information that the first mention of Bastard was in the Book of Kings in the Bible, so it is not a new invention. Indeed, some very illustrious people have been Bastards, such as William the Conqueror or William the Bastard as he was know in his homeland. Not to mention the many Royal Bastards who have cropped up in history down the years.

About 3% of the population were thought to be bastards at one time and the average would have been higher but for the ‘Shot-Gun Marriages’ of the earlier centuries.

In the 17th Century there was a population explosion, and between 1820 and 1860 was recorded the highest number of illegitimate births.

Some of these were ‘hidden’ from the public eye, by the simple act of not baptising the child until the parents had married, as the child would not then be classed as base born, illegitimate or a bastard in the Church Records, as was usually the fate of any child of an unmarried woman.

A German saying, amongst the many quotes by Wim, “Every child has at least 1 father” !!

Wim interspersed his talk with comments on how he had traced the ‘unknown/undisclosed’ history of an elderly female relation, who would probably have been mortified if she had known what he managed to unearth!! However, we must all have found a few skeletons in our Family History cupboards, so she may not be alone in having her secrets revealed.

When looking for information about possible members of a family whether base born or legitimate, always check the original records. Many a Vicar has written revealing notes in the margin of his Church Records, including the actual date of birth of a child, which when compared with the marriage records of the parents can be quite illuminating.

It is also very helpful when several children of the same family are baptised at the same time, if only to prove that the poor woman had not produced 6 children in one birth!!

One telling comment which I found in a Church Marriage Record, “ the groom absconded the following day”. One wonders why!!

Check unusual names, they can often give clues about the parentage of an illegitimate child, especially when checked against the census returns, and the neighbouring families !!

Check and check again, and use some lateral thinking. A child baptised as William James Gibson Howsdon , with no father mentioned, was eventually believed to be the son of James Gibson, who lived a few doors away from the unmarried Howsdon mother, both similar age, but not married at the time.

Court Records can be a useful source of information, giving details of bastards, and charges made on men cited as the father of bastards.

Church Warden’s Accounts are also very useful, as they may give details of maintenance charges, or payments to unmarried mothers.

As usual Wim gave a very informative and amusing talk. As on listener commented “We should have taped it”. Yes, we probably should have done just that.

[Judy Green]

Oct 2011

The Fulborn Asylum Cambridge

The Speaker this month was David Edwards, and his chosen topic was ‘Lunatic Asylums’, based on the County Pauper Lunatic Asylum for Cambridgeshire, opened in 1858, but more recently known as Fulborn Hospital. David divided his talk into two sections, talking firstly about the various forms of information available about the residents of the Asylum, and how they might be useful in tracing missing persons from a family tree, and secondly about the origins of Fulborn Hospital, its growth and final fate.

It is necessary to see the actual records of an Asylum to trace anyone who might have been a patient, Census returns are of no help in this case as they were only allowed to print the initials of patients to protect their privacy. Workhouse details on census returns were much fuller, but few actual records have survived, whereas Asylum records, including Reception orders; Deaths, Removals and Discharge Orders etc have survived in greater numbers and can provide a great deal of information about the individuals. The very latest records before Asylums closed included a photo of each patient with their notes.

David had been trying to locate a married woman with children, who had suddenly disappeared from the census returns. She had married in 1849 and was in the 1851 Census with husband & 1 child, 1861 + 5 children, by 1868 there were 9 children + 1 dead, but by 1871 only husband and 3 eldest children, 1881 husband but no wife or children, 1891 husband was listed as a widower.

Further research revealed that three of the younger children were in the Doddington Workhouse, but still no mother to be found.

It was quite by chance that he discovered the missing woman listed in the records of Fulborn Hospital, she had been admitted there on 5th November 1869 and she died there at the age of 82.

The three main classifications of patients in a Asylum are: Imbecile [late life loss of memory etc.]; Lunatic [loss of reason, partially at times]; Idiot [ congenital mental deficiency].

Death records gave full details of cause; post mortem results [necessary in all cases] : where buried e.g. Asylum cemetery, family church, or Cambridge University Anatomy.

Families had to claim bodies within 48 hours or bodies were either buried in Asylum Cemetery or sent to Cambridge for Anatomy research. Research bodies were buried 2 to 6 months after death.

The history of the County Pauper Lunatic Asylum for Cambridgeshire: 1845: The County Asylum Act . 1848: Committee of Visitors formed [Board of the Asylum]. 1850: Site purchased, and plan & costing by Mr Kendal of London [£25,000. too expensive].

1854: New plans by Fowler Jones of York [£ 40,000.] 1856 foundation stone laid by Earl of Hardwick. 1858: Opened on 2nd November 1858 . Fifty local patients transferred in from other Asylums.

The original limit was 300 patients, but as demand for places increased further separate wings were added for male and female occupants. The Asylum was originally intended for Cambridgeshire members only, but soon places were contracted for other counties and also for ‘private’ patients [ non-paupers].

To-day Fulborn is back to its original size, and is a business park. The cemetery is marked by a metal plate only. Most Asylums closed in the 1980’s .

David suggested the ‘Story of Mental Hospitals’ by David Clarke as a useful book to read. It can be found on line.

[Judy Green]

2010

January 2010

THE PRINCESS ALICE DISASTER: A TALK BY MAUREEN NICHOLLS & MAURICE AMPS

Our well attended January meeting heard from Maureen how a disaster, which happened in 1878, led her into Family History research.

Whilst watching a TV programme on the sinking of the Lucitania by a German torpedo & hearing about all those who drowned, the casual remark made by Maureen’s mother that Aunt Mary drowned made Maureen question her mum - had Aunt Mary drowned when the Lucitania went down. Mother’s answer was ‘No- she drowned in the Thames’.
With no more information forthcoming Maureen became intrigued with Aunt Mary & after asking around was told she could get information from the newspapers of the time.

Living in London made access to the Newspaper Library easy on her days off.

Diligent searching of many papers produced the story with hand drawn pictures of the event.

A collision occurred between the passenger boat The Princess Alice returning from Sheerness & the coal carrier Bywell Castle coming from the dry dock after repairs & repainting, on the sultry evening of 3rd September 1878 on the river Thames, on a bend where the north & south sewage outfalls fell into the river. Over 600 people were drowned despite small boats going to the rescue.

Many people couldn’t swim & most were dragged down into the putrid water by their heavy clothing.

Maureens’s search showed that her great Aunt Mary Ball had drowned & also that she had been in the company of a married man, a licensed victualler! The story goes that Mary, who was in service, & being off duty wore her hair free & long & that her man friend seeing a lady in the water thought it was Mary & grasped her long hair & dragged her ashore only to find that it wasn’t Mary he had saved!

He must have given information about Mary so that perhaps her employers were informed & hence her mother Bridget Ball identified her daughter body.

Procedures were followed to inform relatives of the named passengers.

Maureen told her mother what she had found out & that Bridget was Mary’s mother –Mum’s quick answer was ‘yes & Robert was her father’ which as Maureen said was the first lesson she learned when researching family history - that you should question family members very carefully & get as much information as possible from them.

Maurice interspersed Maureen’s talk with the technical details of both vessels & the inquest.

A Mr Carttar was the coroner & the hearing lasted over a month. Over 600 people drowned & the cost of the inquest was £4621 16s 6d.

Criticisms were made of both captains. The Alice’s captain went down with his ship with his wife & children.

As there were no ‘rules of the river ‘in those days the outcome of this incident brought about changes in that ships now pass each other ‘port to port’ amongst other rulings.

It was also stated that the Alice was probably overloaded. It was known that the Bywell had a pilot on board but that the collision occurred because both captains thought they were steering away from each other when in fact the opposite happened.

Maureen’s talk could have very dismal but she cleverly lightened it by anecdotes & stories of her family which she said were ‘ stories for another day’!

There were many photos & copies of the newspapers for us to look at whilst we enjoyed refreshments & there is a very good web site about this incident.

Our February speaker is Susanah Farmer whose talk is on ‘Pig Clubs’- another way of researching family history!

[Barbara Holmes]

February 2010

PIGS CLUBS

Susanah Farmer was our speaker for the February meeting & began by telling of her students days which led her into studying local history & eventually her family history, Susananh also has a love of pigs to the extent that she rears her own!

As she explained, when one starts a project it invariably leads to other avenues & as part of local history she became aware that in days past most families kept a pig at the bottom of the garden or on their allotments to supplement their food supplies especially during hard times such as the war.

The powers that be realised that such practices would continue so they encouraged the formation of Pig Clubs which started around 1880 to buy, feed & look after pigs.

Pigs Clubs were established as self help groups, had minutes recorded & members lists – a source of names for family history & fees paid which helped members out in lean times.

Pigs were known to eat anything & everything from scraps from the table to the waste products from such places as breweries & dairies & returned the same as manure.

The government created inspectors & documents & plans such as IR 58’s show that not only did they inspect the pigs & their environ but also described how peoples’ houses were built & the number of rooms they had & where the pigs & poultry were kept.

The clubs were also a way for the hierarchy to have some social control over the populace- ‘give them something to do & keep them out of trouble’ & people were encouraged to become self sufficient.

We were shown many documents of historical & social value & told of ways to research Pig & Cow clubs for lists of members & as an insight to social history which could enhance our knowledge of our own families .

Susanah told how the slaughter of the family pig was always an occasion, if somewhat sad perhaps for the children, but the end products fed the family, even if the pig had become a pet & that every part of the pig was used – except the squeal.

There were several books available to peruse, one of which was Mrs Beaton’s recipes for pork products.

The talk ended with members recalling their own family pig keeping.

Our March meeting is the Club Night when members show how they have recorded their Family History & to exchange help & advice with lap tops fiche & readers & CD’s available.

[Barbara Holmes]

March 2010

Members help & share evening

Members & visitors joined together for our March meeting to share knowledge on the various ways to research family history.

Fiche readers, laptops. printers & all the society’s fiche & CD’s were made available to all.

We were encouraged to show our own methods of research & to exchange ideas.

Groups were seen discussing various topics & display boards showed completed works & those still in progress.

Personal familiar histories were on display & many information forms were available as were the Society MI registers & library.

Bernard Amps gave a demonstration of one way of getting family history onto the computer.

The Society also had a display & information table, manned by members, at the National Trust Peckover House Wisbech the following weekend.

The April meeting is with Mac Marborough who will talk about his RAF WW2 experiences.

[Barbara Holmes]

April 2010

World War 2 Stories

Posters of WW2 & many photos & newspaper cuttings were displayed & set the scene for our members & guests at our April meeting, when Mac Narborough recounted his WW2 memories.

Mac told us he was born in Southampton above a shoe shop & came to Wisbech where Narborough’s shoe shop & chiropody service has been, in Norfolk Street for many years.

He remembers the threat of war approaching & being sent on his cycle to all the grocers’ shops in town, even recalling the names, to purchase sugar.

His grandfather was Headmaster at Wisbech school& his family served the community in several ways during the war.

He mentioned the Air Raid Warden Stations in Wisbech & himself being a boy scout & a runner taking messages between the various posts .He spoke of air raid shelters & evacuation procedures which were practised on a regular basis. Of being on fire watch duties on top of a large shop roof armed with a stirrup pump & bucket of water.

Mac spoke of the local Home Guard formed to support the regular army & how the home guard had only arm bands for recognition & farmyard tools for defence.

He joined the RAF & told of his skiing training in Norway & his training days & of his comrades many of them were old school friends, two of whom still survive.

Facts, figures & names were mentioned by Mac proving that he has a remarkable memory. An enjoyable evening, when the audience were invited to ask questions & tell their own WW2 stories & look at the displays.

Our May meeting will see Alison Sloane speaking of old Fenland recipes & diet with tastings of some of the recipes.

[Barbara Holmes]

May 2010

Fenland Food & Recipes

ALISON SLOAN now a teacher at the local Grammar School, gave members & quests a gastronomic delight for our May meeting.

She commenced her talk by telling us how she became obsessed with the history of food.

She gained her Masters in Social History with food being the predominant feature.

After having worked for various commercial companies she then became catering manager at National Trust properties & this lead her into investigating what people ate from Tudor times onwards . The NT properties at Oxburgh House King’s Lynn & Peckover House Wisbech had records of food produced & cooked & inventories of kitchen equipment.

Alison was not too impressed with the food offered to present day NT visitors so decided to research old recipes & reproduce them for the National Trust menu & this proved very successful.

Speaking of what was available from the local land & rivers Alison explained how, with imports of spices, wine & fruit & later molasses, food remained basic but nutritional, although it didn’t stop the working classes trying to eat as their lords & masters -an example quoted was that of fine white bread eaten by the lords, instead of the more wholesome whole grain bread which in poorer times was made of ground peas & beans.

Alison noted the meals taken by a Parson Woodford & that the amount of one of his daily three meals would be sufficient for several meals for us today, & although there were several courses the food was often meat & fish mixed with fruit & spices for each course.

The local well known farmer John Peck also made notes in his diary of food consumed & he noted that the potato which was originally thought only good enough for animal fodder in the mid 1800’s was being offered to humans in a baked form at the local fair & market which he thought ‘was very peculiar’

Alison continued her talk by making a trifle from a Peckover House recipe book which contained a good amount of brandy! The audience then had great pleasure in sampling this & many other dishes Alison had brought with her, these being herring & fruit pie, Fourses cake, lardy cake. Carroway cake, ginger bread, & Norfolk Vinegar cake.

To make the evening more special we were able to celebrate the 85th birthday of our member Bernard Amps, well known in the area for his knowledge of family history & research. He was presented with a card & birthday cake made by member Ann le Fort& he was seen having a good sample of the brandy trifle!

Something you probably didn’t know...

When the molasses barrels were emptied the poor people would scrape them out to get the remnants – hence the saying –scraping the bottom of the barrel !!

You learn something every day .. now what’s in the deep freezer for lunch!

[Barbara Holmes]

June 2010

June meeting Visit to Sutton St.Edmunds Church

The North Brink Wisbech is undergoing work to the river banks which are being made higher & strengthened. This made access to the Quaker Meeting House Wisbech virtually impossible, so the venue for our June out & about meeting was changed from the Quaker meeting house to Sutton St. Edmunds Church Lincs.

On a very pleasant & warm evening about 35 members & guests were greeted by the church warden to the very pretty & small church of Sutton St. Edmunds & she gave us a short history & the many repairs that had taken place over the decades, whilst we sat in the box pews.

This grade 2 listed building was first built with straw, burned down & completely rebuilt in 1795 in brick & stone at a cost of £1200 financed from Queen Ann’s Bounty.

The organ, choir stalls & pulpit have been obtained over the years, from various other churches & there remains the original brass chandelier holding candles which is still lit for Christmas.

There is a lantern tower topped by the cupola housing one bell. The bell is 25½ inches in diameter & inscribed ‘Thomas Osborn founder Downham Norfolk 1801’

The magnificent stained glass east window shows the Ascension & is a gift from a Miss Whitsed in memory of her brother Isaac. There are 3 beautiful stained glass windows in the south wall two of which are memorials to a past vicar’s parents.

Several members enhanced their family history with what they found in the registers which had been made available & the younger & healthier of us climbed the stairs to the gallery & into the tower.

We were refreshed by coffee tea & biscuits & several people strolled around the graveyard finding the small gravestone which has a preservation order on it. We thInk we managed to decipher the words which said 1 AUG.1660. The Burma Star memorial garden was also appreciated.

Our next meeting in July is about Wisbech Anniversaries & the speaker is the ever popular Andrew Ingram.

[Barbara Holmes]

July 2010

WISBECH ANNIVERSARIES

Guests and members met for our July meeting to listen to one of our favourite speakers, Andrew Ingram with his slides of various venues. His talk was about Anniversaries of important events for Wisbech.

We were told that a theatre was erected in Wisbech in 1793 and through time has been a school, a boxing venue and a library and had fallen into disrepair but renovated and known today as the Angles Theatre. Wisbech was lit by gas in 1832 and the Leverington road cemetery was laid out in 1835.

160 years ago the first bank was opened, as was the Barton school for boys who were boarders. This school had the luxury of a swimming pool. Wisbech got its first public swimming pool in 1910, situated at Crab Marsh. The fire station was established in Hill Street in 1900.

Octavia Hill, the founder of the National Trust was born in South Brink in 1838 and the house is now a Museum celebrating her life. 145 years ago fresh water was first brought to Wisbech. For many years water had been used from the Wisbech canal and river for drinking, etc., causing outbreaks of Cholera in 1832 and 1849.

The Wisbech canal was closed at the lock junction with the river in 1930 and the railway arrived in 1847. The Wisbech Museum was started up in rented rooms 125 years ago and later moved to a purpose built establishment in Museum Square. The first local paper was produced in 1845, and the first electric cinema was built 100 years ago and bombed during World War 2 in1945.

In 1880 a memorial was erected near the river, to Thomas Clarkson, a local man who with his friend established through parliament, the Abolition of Slavery.

We were fascinated by Andrew’s knowledge and the dates he remembered and the several places mentioned were remembered by the audience.

Our September meeting is the AGM followed by a talk by Brian Jones on the Religious Houses of Lincolnshire.

On September 18th we will be holding our Family History Day when visiting Societies will, with ourselves be available to help with research etc.

There will also be a World War 2 display with, amongst other things, a showing of the food rationing for an adult for one week.

[Barbara Holmes]

October 2010

WELLINGTON’S ARMY

At our October meeting Geoff Lee gave an illustrated talk on the Duke of Wellington & his rise to fame.

He was, with his contemporary Nelson, known as the hero of the day.

Born as Arthur Wellesley the 4th son, on the first of May 1769 in Dublin he was schooled at Eton & then went to the French Military academy. As an ensign with great ability, he worked hard & bought his way up through the ranks. He became MP for Ireland.

He was made Lt. Colonel of the 33rd Foot regiment & fought in the Netherlands & India

He was a Field Marshall & in 1809 commanded the Peninsula war. He was created Count Wellington.

In 1813 he was Field Marshall to the Horse Guards & was knighted the Duke of Wellington in 1814.

He was made custodian of Walmer Castle & Warden of the Cinque Ports.

We heard of the many Battles he commanded many of which only lasting one day as did the Battle of Waterloo & through slides & photos saw many of the Army’s battle plans & the scenes of war which we were interested to hear were not drawn on the battlefield but by what was described to the artist later.

We saw how regiments were identified by the uniforms they wore & the colour of such items as the facings, collar & cuff. We heard gruesome details of hand to hand fighting, square & line defence systems & the long treks on foot by the army to reach their destination of the next battle.

We were then given helpful & interesting details on how such things as Muster rolls, Medal rolls & other documents & museums that could help us in our family history research. If you have an unexplainable gap in your family history especially long gaps between the birth of children it could be your man was in Wellington’s Army!

Our next meeting is on December 2nd a change from the original date in November.

It is our Social evening with Displays of Photos on Childhood Holidays, a quiz & a talk by Pete Edwards on Crimes & Misdemeanours & a wine buffet

[Barbara Holmes]

2009

January 2009

FENLAND FAMILIES

The speaker for our well - attended January meeting was Rex Sly, an ex RAF pilot & farmer and now author.

His interest in fenland families began with his own research tracing his family back to the 1600’s.

The family were tenant farmers in Thorney & moved in the 1700’s to Gedney Hill & Spalding. His three times Gt grandfather was a bargee & the rest of the family have moved no further than 10 –15 miles in the last 400 years.

Rex’s first book ‘The Punt & The Plough’ told of life in the Fens & his 2nd book ‘Fenland Families’ told of the trades, business, & professions of the families covering three generations.

Well known family businesses such as Hopper the instrument makers & Franks (originally of German extraction) who were horse dealers & are now well known for their pork butcher shops in Wisbech & elsewhere, Layton’s the dry cleaners & Ladbrooke’s the ice cream makers of Spalding.

Most families had relatives in both WW1& WW2, & it was only the resilience and loyalty of the staff not called up to war that these families were able to continue their businesses. We saw a picture of the WW1 record, written on silk material that belonged to a member of the Goodwin family who were fishermen. Other families mentioned were the Bagleys, tippers & trimmers of coal, the Adam family who were urinal makers, Barnes the undertakers, a family going strong today. In Wisbech the Gibbs family, well known for their shoe shops & today still carried on by the daughter, as is Elgoods Brewery.

The Strickland family worked at Crowland Abbey & Johnson’s were shoe repairers of Holbeach.

Rex told an interesting story of a baker in Spalding who even today bakes bread in the old fashioned coke fuel steam ovens & who was eagerly sort after during a bread strike by the big commercial firms, when queues formed outside his shop to buy his bread.

Rex spoke of new families coming into Fenland who do not follow the traditional trades, but thankfully there are still Fenland Families in the true sense of the word.

[Barbara Holmes]

February 2009

A GYPSY IN THE FAMILY

Our well - attended February meeting heard Geoffrey Lee tell how he found out, through an Uncle that they had a ‘Gypsy in the Family’ & with the aid of slides we were shown Geoff’s family tree.

We heard how the gypsies came from Pakistan & the surrounding area & spread throughout the world, first landing in Scotland in 1505. The people were of dark complexion and were for some reason referred to as Egyptians. They arrived in England in 1514.

Several Acts of Parliament were passed which made their lives difficult & in 1530 they were banned from entering England & were given 16 days to depart. In 1554 they were threatened with the death penalty if they stayed more than one month, & often accused of being ‘counterfeit Egyptians’ dirty, mischievous, vagabonds & rogues.

The Settlement Act of 1662 meant that the parish had to keep the gypsies. To make sure they ‘belonged’ to the parish, the gypsies had their children baptised in the parish, contracted marriages, & held funerals in church.

The Licensing Act 1697 made life no easier, because they employed themselves as hawkers, peddlers & tin - smiths they had to pay the fee of £4 per annum.

In 1874 children were forcibly taken from their parents & transported.

It was believed that because of their dark skin they were dirty, therefore neglected & inadequately fed & lacked education. This state of affairs lasted up until WW1.

The Holocaust saw Jews, Romany gypsies sent to death camps .

Geoffrey went on to display & talk about their living tents & caravans & how they improved over time, their names, & how they adopted the local names, their various occupations, their strict code of living, their food, their medicines & the skills of bare knuckle boxing, their taboos & wedding ceremonies & their knowledge of horses.

We then heard of several famous people who had gypsy origins such as Django Reinhart the guitarist. Davis Essex the singer, whose mother was a gypsy, himself now Patron of the Gypsy Council, Jack Cooper the boxer & Michael Caine the actor.

This fascinating talk was well received & questions were asked whilst refreshments were served.

[Barbara Holmes]

March 2009

MEMBERS EVENING

Bridget welcomed new members and visitors to our March meeting.

A pleasant & informative evening was organised by the Society members.

There was a display of the various ways in which to portray a family tree from long scrolls, books, embroidered pictures & family bibles. There were many wonderful & obviously treasured photographs showing not only family but also the costume of the era.

Shown also were the products & linen of the Monday washday of years ago, and a talk was given by Barbara on the history of ironing with examples of old flat irons on display.

Anita told of schooldays & gave examples of school reports of famous people which without fail told of the school boy or girl not doing well but who in fact went on to become usually rich & famous. Again wonderful old school photos & artefacts supported this display.

A table, which showed examples of scrap booking, caused a lot of interest & Wendy was able to encourage people to start up their own family history scrap - book by advising & possibly joining a workshop, which she organises.

Following this there was a general discussion from all members about their memories & this continued during refreshments.

There was a competition to see how many shortened name derivatives there are made from first names e.g. Edward –Ted, Margaret –Peggy etc. & a quiz.

Our next meeting welcomes Andrew Ingram who will talk about fenland railways.

[Barbara Holmes]

April 2009

FENLAND RAILWAYS

A trip down memory lane:
Just close your eyes and imagine you are at the railway station in the days of steam.
Can you hear the hiss of the steam escaping? Can you smell the engine oil
and coal burning, and hear the train doors banging shut, the guards whistle?
Can you hear the train announcer telling you that the next train will arrive at platform one and that it will be on time?

This was the scene evoked by our ever popular speaker Andrew Ingram with his talk on Fenland railways. Andrew reeled off the names of stations in the best station announcer fashion & although several stations are no more since Dr. Beeching had his evil way we were surprised to find out that many small stations still survive albeit without the facilities they once had.

Many stations had well kept gardens, the pride & joy of the station staff. With the aid of slides we travelled from places in Fenland that passed through & ended the journey in Wisbech. We saw how gates were manually opened or operated by a big wheel in the signal box, & how the engine driver collected signal tablets to allow him to drive his engine onto the next stretch of line. We saw the various branch lines leading to local factories & into two Wisbech stations which are no more. Andrew explained the use of the loading gauge at Thorney used to ascertain the height of the loaded wagons to enable them to pass through bridges.

The Rhubarb Bridge, so called because when it was built the earth used for the embankment eventually grew large crops of Rhubarb. We heard that Smiths the bookshop people opened their first shop on March Station, & that March had the biggest marshalling yards in Europe.

The Station at Wolverton was used by the Royal family when they visited Sandringham. This is now a Museum. Photos of famous trains such as the Flying Scot & the Fenman were shown as were those of the long trains carrying sand to the Midlands.

We saw the progress made with electrification of lines & diesel trains. Noted was the progress made by the Bramley Line Association. This is a local group of very hard working & dedicated people trying to redevelop the short railway line between Wisbech & March as a tourist attraction. Andrew was kept busy answering questions until the end of the meeting & it was evident that his talk had reminded people of the ‘way things were on the trains’

[Barbara Holmes]

May 2009

THE 1911 CENSUS

The 1911 talk by Brain Jones was very well attended, & as usual, the audience was not disappointed.

Brian began with a quick comparison of the previous census returns, & then proceeded to show us the many extra benefits of the 1911 census.

To illustrate the added benefits, Brian had searched for his own Grandfather Jones, whom he could remember from his childhood.

Even with the name Jones’, he was quickly able to find both his grandparents in London, with two children at home. However, he was also able to discover that a 3rd child had been born & died before 1911 , as the census form asked for all children of the marriage, both living & deceased, to be included in the numbers.

The length of the marriage was listed and any children from previous marriages could be noted, both step children & ‘natural’ children.

There were the usual columns for sex, status, occupation, nationality, servants, & guests etc. also the number of rooms occupied by each family.

Some dwellings had several families each occupying a room, while some very small dwellings of only 2 or 3 tiny rooms had 3 generations living in them, so conditions would be very cramped.

The only information not available until 2012 was the column for ‘infirmities’ (deaf, blind etc). Institutions and very large houses were not listed under their titles e.g. Hospitals, Prisons, Workhouses, and Palaces etc. but would be accessed by searching for a name of a resident ..

for example ‘King George’ to find Buckingham Palace & then all the family, servants, etc. are listed.

The census gives a detailed idea of life at that time and the conditions that people were living in.

It should be noted that many women would not have been listed, such as Members of the Suffragette movement who refused to be counted, & left home for the day & night in a mass boycott of the Census. Over 600 women in London stayed in Trafalgar Square until 11.30pm & then went to the theatre until 1.30am & finally proceeded to another venue for breakfast in order to avoid the national count.

Not only could one download copies of the original sheets and various transcripts, but any errors found could be reported back & they would be corrected.

Brian admitted that he was very impressed with the results of his search, although he had spent rather more than he might otherwise have done, because he also searched various lines of his wife’s family.

It was the detail disclosed which was so impressive. He even proved that the return for his grandparents had been filled in by the enumerator, by comparing various key numbers & letters with the signature of the Enumerator in the summary at the end of the return. Grandfather Jones had never learned to write, therefore would not have been able to fill in his return, so the enumerator had to pressed into service.

[Judith Green ]

June 2009

OUTING TO St. MARY’S CHURCH. TYDD St. GILES

BOn a very pleasant sunny evening the church wardens greeted a small group of members & guests & gave a short talk about the history of the church.

Tydd St. Mary was once an important landing place as the outlet for the river Elloe, now known as the Nene. Tydd is thought to take the name from the word ‘tide’ written in the doomsday book as ‘Tid’.

The wooden Saxon church was replaced around 1130 by a Norman Church, the large Nave columns and the lower parts of the chancel walls being all that remain of this, the chancel was rebuilt on its earlier foundations in 1320.

The tower is one of few 15th century brick built towers in Lincolnshire & stands 55 feet high topped with a spire also 55 feet high. The clock was donated by Harry Banks in 1912.

The Lynch Gate was erected in memory of those from the village who gave their lives in the two world wars. The 15th century octagonal font has angels with shields bearing ecclesiastical emblems on each of its sides.

After the talk we were able to look around the church & note the alabaster coffin lid of William de Tydd.

The east window of the Chancel was restored in 1869 but the tracery windows in the walls on each side are from the early 14th century & there are several wall plaques & monuments to notable residents of Tydd St. Giles. There were five bells originally –a sixth being added by the father of a young man who died in the village.

There were registers available to peruse & the healthy amongst us climbed a small circular stairway to the top of the tower. Many photos were taken & tea coffee & biscuits refreshed us whilst the wardens answered many questions.

[Barbara Holmes]

July 2009

COURTSHIP & MARRIAGE

A large audience of members, guests & new members welcomed our speaker Tom Doig. In his humorous & demonstrative manner he soon had us enthralled in his talk.

It is known that wherever people were born, so they often got married & buried in the same place, misleading researchers into thinking that our ancestors never moved far away. This is in fact not true for when a person was an Ag. Lab for example, he would ‘follow the work’. A household servant would move with the family several times & people travelled to find work.

The working classes often had contracts for 364 days a year & if they were not re-employed by the boss or wanted to leave ,then they would have to make themselves available for hire at places like a hiring fair to gain further employment, this again could take them from their home area. If a person was hired the new employer would give them a shilling to have their personal box sent to their new workplace. Celebrations would take place with drinking & eating & so relationships were formed.

Initially a boy & girl would ‘walk out’ & with a chaperone, if you belonged to the middle classes. Kissing in public, usually in the market place, was seen as a statement of commitment. This was not considered an engagement but tokens were exchanged& in Victorian times very thin gold wire bands in a zig-zag pattern were worn by the boy & girl.

Marriages often took place when the bride was pregnant, this carrying no stigma especially amongst the Ag. Labs. The groom’s parents encouraged the situation by providing a meal & a bed; because it had to be proven that the bride was fertile before the marriage took place. This was known as bundling.

Banns were called on three consecutive Sundays but the pregnant bride to be was not allowed in Church for this as it was thought the baby would be born deformed or be an idiot. The boy & girl were considered to be married when, at the end of a church service the groom would present himself to the clergy & then go to the south door where his friends would have erected a barrier over which the groom had to step to reach his bride , hence ‘marrying over the broomstick’. This occasion was followed by a church service about a week later.

Tom told us of several myths & facts about the marriage ceremony & its associations.

In 1240 a prospective groom had to pay the steward of the Lord of the Manor a sum of money, to cover the loss of work from his bride if she was pregnant. This was known as The Merchett Tax. A dowry was given to the groom as payment for taking the bride, but the bride’s belongings, known as paraphernalia, remained her property always.

Marriages often took place on Christmas day, as this was the only day off with pay for workers. Weddings on other days meant the groom lost a day’s wages.

The woman would collect & make things for her marriage (bottom drawer) & often included 2 matching shrouds embroidered by the woman!

Today’s saying stating that a woman is in the club means she is pregnant but in Victorian times it meant the opposite, in that to be in the club meant the woman had made contributions to a ‘lying in’ club, this money being available to pay for the birth of the child or should she die in childbirth the money was for the funeral. A woman could not join the club if she was already pregnant!

It was thought unlucky for the bride & groom to have surnames beginning with the same letter, as the marriage would be doomed. Signing the register with a cross did not always mean the person could not write but chose to make an X instead.

Tom’s talk was followed by refreshments & many questions.

[Barbara Holmes]

September 2009

MY UNUSUAL SURNAME

After our AGM we welcomed our president the Reverend Wim Zwalf who gave us a talk on his rare surname.

His father was of Dutch origin & his mother Australian & his story was filled with sadness happiness & hilarity.

As a student at King’s College in 1960 Wim was walking along a street in London when he saw a shop with the name Zwalf. Having never met anyone with the same surname Wim introduced himself to the owner, Herman Zwalf a diamond merchant, whose father was also Dutch & asked if there was any family connection, unfortunately there appeared to be none.

Wimp’s father knew nothing of this man. So intrigued, Wym decided to research his family’s name.

Dutch registers from 1811 recorded three generations i.e. grand-father, father, son so as he said he had 3 generations laid out without any trouble & with much information.

Many registers were destroyed during the war to prevent Jews being identified. Wym mentioned his grand-parents would walk on opposite sides of the road in case one of them was arrested. & that many of his family were taken to the concentration camps & gassed.

During the war Wim’s grandmother was hidden in a loft for many months & then taken to another hiding place & lived under a kitchen floor for three years.

Wym was asked about the spelling variations of his surname but he established that the true spelling always began with Zw…

The origin of the name is thought to be Arabic with the name, pronounced differently & translating in the middle east to mean the name of the long side curls worn by Jewish men, or to mean side burns or from North Africa, long plaits.

Research had brought forward 3rd & 4th cousins. The Zwalf’s were few & far between!

At present there are nine known male Zwalfs so as Wim said he was delighted when his son produced twin boys & caused a laugh when he suggested the other young males all in their ‘20’& 30’s ‘should get a move on ’ & continue to strenghten the Zwalf lineage & the research continues.

The ultimate aim for the family is to have DNA testing done to prove their origin, surely an exciting occurrence.

At our November meeting June Barton will return & talk of pig sties, privvies & old coppers.

[Barbara Holmes]

October 2009

PRIVIES, PIGSTYES & COPPERS

We welcomed back the ‘queen of the Lincolnshire Marshes’ as our speaker for October. Within minutes June Barton had us laughing at her search for old privies, some of which she was surprised to find within a mile or so of her home. Most ‘lavvies ‘are attached to very old or derelict buildings & is it only because of June’s keen eyes that some of them have been found.& videod. The three holers, the two holers, the Elsan, the buckets & the sod & soil variety , all were of immense interest her especially the way they were built & not forgetting the newspaper squares strung up (or the luxury of the tissue from orange coverings at Christmas ) & hung on the wall. June explained sometimes the privies belonged to people living in a cottage & she said she had to be very careful in her negotiations to be allowed to take photos!

June has a love of pigs & pig-styes & as a child preferred to play with pigs rather than children! She admired the way the styes had been sturdily built with their sloping rooves. At slaughter time she would be sent off to Grandma but allowed home when all the ham, joints, sausages & bacon had been prepared & salted & says she still prefers a good bit of home cured fat bacon to the stuff you get in the shops. To prepare the hams at Christmas the coppers would be filled with water, a fire lit beneath & the joints cooked. Then on a Monday the copper would be filled for hot water for wash day. Often these coppers were found in an out- house which would also be used for bathing & the lavvie would be next door or at the bottom of the garden. June spoke of seeing magnificent coppers still in existence but not now used for their original purpose. She spoke of cisterns & wells, the difference being that cisterns were underground but collected rain water from the roof of the house & wells collected water from an underground source, which a lot of people were not aware of.

June’s enthusiasm for all things natural appears unstoppable. She mourns the loss of anything old especially when the bulldozers arrive, & her life is the Lincolnshire Marshes. She spoke briefly on the wild life currently seen on the Marsh near her home & the coasters waiting for the tide to be right for their passage across the Wash. She explained that when she got home after this meeting she would probably get on her trusty bike & go & see what was out there before going to bed. She answered many questions & members were encouraged to tell their own stories of ‘the.privie’.

Our November meeting is the Social Evening with displays depicting WW2, uniforms. tales & photos from the past & a quiz. Refreshments will be served.

[Barbara Holmes]

November 2009

SOCIAL EVENING & BUFFET.

For our last meeting this year we had on display artefacts covering several aspects of WW2,

trades, uniforms & a memory table. There were many photos on display especially those of the RAF, with histories of personal exploits. The trade display had wonderful articles showing every type of trade & several people tried wearing a yoke & using farm implements. The tools of the candle maker, weaver, dairy maid & many more trades put together by Linda, made an admirable show.

The memory table hosted by Judy had records of memories sent in by members recalling many events of war time & childhood.

Anita displayed Wrens uniforms & photos of herself as a Wren. On show also a Girl Guide badge, tie & whistle circa 1948, with the contents of anWW2 evacuees suitcase brought in by Ann & Edith.

Old paper dress patterns similar to those used during the war showed names such as McCall & Vogue!

A display of WW2 posters & the rations for an adult for one week weighed & put together by Barbara had many people wondering how we managed on so little, although with many of us being country folk we apparently did not go hungry as not only did we ‘Dig for Victory’ we made use of what was in the country side, & preserved a lot of food as it came into season- no deep freezers in those days!!

Pat had a marvellous display of family uniforms, photos, records & a picture embroidered by her Father when in India.

A lovely interesting evening when again ‘I remember when....’ was often quoted.

Janet gave our brains some exercise with her quiz & Barbara Bullen, (whom we were very pleased to see again after her serious illness) manned the well supplied buffet tables. The other Barbara dressed in WW2 pinny & turban served the wine & soft drinks.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the evening & especially all those who helped to clear away afterwards. May you have a truly wonderful Christmas & the very Best for the New Year.

[Barbara Holmes]

2008

January 2008

The speaker for our first meeting for 2008 was Robert Bell from the Wisbech Museum. Many of our members have already used the museum to look up the local Parish Registers for their family B. M.D’s, and Robert was able to tell us what else was available.

There were many early maps on display, of Wisbech & the surrounding areas, which in some cases also showed who owned the land. Books such as Council Minutes, sanitation inspector’s reports, early Kellys trade directories & old newspapers were also shown as were copies of Bastardy orders settlements & removal papers, old sale notices & much more to help us to fill in our family history.

Robert said that the museum is hoping to get an online catalogue of what is available at the museum in the future but advised that if anyone wanted to look at large documents, an appointment needs to be made to enable the museum staff to allocate adequate space.

After a question & answer session, the donation of the 100-year-old wedding dress, first seen at our ‘Weddings evening’ in November, was made to the Museum. The 23-year-old bride was Edith Letitia Spanton of Cambridge, daughter of Emery Spanton a Baptist Minister & her groom also 23 years was John Dickens Groome, son of Charles Groome, a farmer in Wellingborough, Northants. The wedding took place in the September quarter of 1903 in Cambridge. J.R. Glass. Milliner Draper & Ladies Outfitter of Wisbech supplied the material for the bride’s gown & was made locally.

Mentioned also were the generous donations made to the Society by members, Barbara Bullen, of stationary items, Kevin Rogers for his work on the MI’s at the Octagon Church cemetery Wisbech & Heather Stanbury’s gift of CD’s.

[Barbara Holmes]

February 2008

Peter Carter, our speaker for the February meeting told of his family going back to the 1500s. This true Fenland family has been mentioned in five books & the skills have been passed down through his family.

Attired in his working clothes Peter fascinated his audience with his knowledge of the country - side. He described the life cycle of eels & how they were caught using wicker traps & special eel forks, & explained how their numbers were diminishing partly due to the large catches made at sea preventing the eels coming into local waters for breeding.

With the aid of a computer pictures we saw different types of punt gun & how they were used to shoot duck, & Peter described the careful approach used in a punt in the early mornings to catch duck as they settled on the marshes.

We then heard how poaching in the past was carried out, always illegal, but if carried out during the daytime & the poacher got caught he was sent to prison, but if caught night poaching then this was a hanging offence! It was presumed that the daytime poaching took place ‘by chance’ but that poaching at night was pre- planned. Peter pointed out that birds & animals were always killed for food & never for fun.

Peter is responsible for willow beds & described the growing & coppicing to maintain their usefulness in providing willow for traps & baskets for the long term.

The Woodland Trust also provides work for Peter as he makes fences & does hedge laying which he much prefers, to the practice of flaying hedges to reduce their height.

Peter also visits schools & instructs the children on the use of willow & how they should treat the Countryside, and his ‘claim to fame’ when he met & spoke to the Queen at the Welney Wild Life Association.

We saw a few artefacts & Peter answered questions, especially on how to trap moles, for the rest of the evening whilst we enjoyed light refreshments.

[Barbara Holmes]

March 2008

CHILDHOOD MEMORIES

Members recalling their childhood memories took us back in time for our March meeting.. The stories ranged from the war - time, air raid shelters, ration books & the value of the sweet coupons, searchlights & the food that was available, to the games children played. We were told of children, in one case a 14yr old boy, being in charge of a horse & loaded cart that was being taken through town, and having time off school to help gather the wheat & potato harvests (no health & safety in those days)

Mentioned also was the discipline that was the rule rather than the exception, which in retrospect was usually fair & certainly did no harm.

The games we played, even to sliding down a pigsty roof & the bicycle rides & ball games.

The first TV programmes for kids such as the Wooden Tops & Bill & Ben. The radio was important not only for the news but for programmes such Uncle Mack & his way of ending his programme with ‘goodnight children –everywhere’. The Billy Cotton Band show & Workers Playtime with its catchy songs, and Dick Barton –special agent.

Holidays by the seaside, leisure time, liquorice straws & gob stoppers, fruit picking, school time, & friends to share adventures with - all had a mention.

From this evening the memories proved that family, friends, freedom & fearlessness was the order of the day, with common sense prevailing even to learning some of life’s lessons the hard way.

One could wonder today if our children are missing out on such a lot …..

[Barbara Holmes]

April 2008

FUNNY BLOOD - a family disease

Ann Simmons’s reason for investigating her family history was medical. At out April meeting Ann, a retired State Registered Nurse, spoke of the ‘funny blood’ disease which afflicted her immediate family & told us how the symptoms presented with pallor, tiredness & a general feeling of being unwell. One member of her family was seen to have ‘white ears’. Ann, being advised that the condition was probably hereditary & with her medical knowledge, decided to try & find out through which part of the family the disease came.

Her search, as with all family historians, began by finding her forefathers. Aided with many beautiful family photographs, hoarded by her Aunt Miriam & interspersed with paintings by Ann’s artistic father, she traced the past family members who had had various medical conditions such as anaemia, renal failure & leukaemia. A diagnosis of a ‘malfunction of the spleen’ (splenic anaemia) was made because the red blood cells became spherical instead of the normal convex shape & the patients were ‘cured’ by blood transfusions & eventually the removal of the spleen. It was often found that a personal stress situation was experienced before the disease became apparent & not all members of the same family suffered the disease.

A vast amount of research proved, with the aid of death certificates that many of her past family had peculiar illnesses, which today would be associated with Sphero-cytosis, Modern medical thinking is that the bone marrow is responsible for the condition rather than the spleen & treated with drugs. The operation, for this disease, is rarely carried out today. We learned that Ann herself has had a splenectomy & many transfusions whilst working as a nurse & now enjoys good health.

Her talk was very knowledgeable & eloquently presented & Ann answered many questions.

[Barbara Holmes]

May 2008

LIFE ON THE LINCOLNSHIRE SALT MARSHES

‘Queen of the salt marsh’ is another name for June Barton, for one could not meet a more dedicated & enthusiastic person when it comes to the flora & fauna & taking care of the salt marshes. She was born one mile from Kirton Marsh to farming parents & at six weeks old was taken to the marsh when her father went to harvest Samphire. Her knowledge is such that none have been able to ask a question about the marsh that she could not answer. She is now well known & can be heard on the local radio & has been interviewed for BBC TV programmes. She likes to meet people but says she is just as happy being alone on a 1000 acres of marsh watching birds in flight.

June explained that a salt marsh is an area covered by water twice a day & explained about spring & neap tides, how the creeks can alter course over time & how it can be a dangerous place because of quick sand & the tidal actions. She can also weather forecast by observing nature’s signs.

Her fame spread when she claimed commoner’s rights & succeeded, to harvest Samphire, also known as poor mans asparagus, which the local council wanted to stop. June explained that the correct way to harvest Samphire properly was by cutting & not by pulling up by the roots. She pointed out that the collection should be done by the locals & not turned into a commercial project.

During her life June has been a local government officer amongst other occupations, & her opinion is called for when decisions need to be made about her beloved environ. Her talk was fascinating & was interspersed with amusing anecdotes.

June showed us videos of some of her TV broadcasts & then answered questions, one of which was about her thoughts on wind farms. As much as she dislikes them June said she thinks eventually the coast line will have several & that we have to be prepared to look forward even if the outlook is not as favourable as we would like.

An enlightening evening in the company of a lady whose life is the Lincolnshire Salt Marshes.

[Barbara Holmes]

June 2008

ST. MATTHEW’S CHURCH. SUTTON BRIDGE

The Reverend Woods greeted us when the Society held it’s June meeting at St. Matthews Church.

The village of Sutton Bridge came into existence shortly before the Church which was built of Suffolk flint with stone dressings in the Early English style.

The trustees of Guys hospital bought an estate as an investment, which covered most of the Sutton Bridge area.

William Skelton became steward of the estate & was responsible for improved drainage, the building of roads & planting trees.

Thomas Guy, who is remembered for the founding of Guys Hospital, was a bookseller in London who made a fortune selling Bibles in Holland & was a contractor for printing Bibles in Oxford, and it is he who was mainly responsible for the founding & building of St Matthew’s Church.

St. Matthew’s was consecrated on 29th August 1843, the first stone being laid on July 28th 1841 by Benjamin Harrison Esq. Treasurer of Guy’s Hospital.

The church consisted of a chancel, nave, north & south porches & a western tower containing a clock & one bell & was of plain design with no stained glass windows, no side chapels, no heating & only candles for lighting.

After a short talk we were able to look round the church & noted the Reredos, which was commissioned in 1961. This caused great concern amongst the churchgoers, as it portrayed a beardless Christ.

We also saw the RAF chapel of St. Michael, which was incorporated into the chapel of St. Philip in 1956, in memory of the men of 8 countries who are laid to rest in the churchyard. A board close by shows the names & country of origin of the fallen men.

The magnificent east window behind the High Altar depicts the Epiphany, Crucifixion and Ascension.

The yellow west window depicts the Millennium & the blue window is to the memory of ‘All who left Sutton Bridge to work abroad from 1840 –2000’.

We were also able to browse the church registers & visit the tower & the Reverend was kept busy answering questions.

[Barbara Holmes]

July 2008

THE EAST COAST FLOODS

John Honor, a retired engineer commenced our July meeting by displaying a map showing which parts of eastern England would have been flooded had there been no sea defences at all.

He stated that the sea ‘was everything’ in as much as it can bring prosperity by creating marsh land which can be reclaimed as useful land & destructive when it causes erosion & destroys the coast line.

Ten thousand years ago we were joined to Europe & the four Fenland Rivers were tributaries of the Rhine.

Five thousand years ago we became separated by the sea, from the rest of Europe

The Romans made the first sea defences & changes to the landscape.

Although global warming is of present day concern with the sea levels rising, we were told that there have been dramatic climate changes over thousands of years & John stated that although there is not the immediate predicted catastrophe that is alarming many people, he does agree that great thought & action needs to be put into the building of adequate sea defences now & in the future & by people who understand the sea & rivers.

The east coast floods were caused by a great storm with low air pressure and started over Scotland which then travelled south along the coastline. The low pressure let the sea rise & with force 12 winds led to the east coast floods.

John showed illustrations of sea movements over the decades & pictures of great devastation, whole villages were submerged & there was a great loss of life.

The appreciative audience had many questions to ask especially about building on known flood plains, the answer being that if this is the case it must be acknowledged & the buildings must be made higher than a predicted rise of water level, which is where the specialists come in such as hydrologists whom John stated are few & far between!

[Barbara Holmes]

September 2008

AGM & Talk on Picture Postcards
by Andrew Ingram

The Society held a very successful Family History Day on Sept 13th2008.

At our monthly meeting the profit from that day was presented as a cheque to our President the Rev. Wim Zwalf, to go towards the cost of the refurbishment of St. Peters church hall where we hold our meetings. The improvements include a new kitchen & toilets, the old kitchen converted to a small meeting room, new windows in the hall & decoration .

These new facilities are much appreciated & greatly enhance our meetings.

After our AGM we were taken on a picture postcard journey from Wisbech to Lowestoft & back. Our speaker was the ever - popular Andrew Ingram who told us that the photographs were taken by Herbert Coates who was born in Skipton in 1883. Herbert was involved in transport during WW1 at the Somme & Ypres. In 1921 he came to Wisbech to set up his picture postcard business after having taken several pictures to sell.

So we ‘travelled’ form the Wisbech Port to Lowestoft via Lynn Rd & the Park where he took a picture of a WW1 tank which was taken by the East Harbour rail track to the park & off loaded onto a ready prepared concrete base. From here we were taken to the village stores at Walpole Highway , to Terrington St. John, to King’s Lynn with the picture of the 3 Bridges & the South Gates at the entrance to the town. There were pictures of boats on the Gt. River Ouse, the Castle at Castle Rising, the Snettisham Woods & the seaside at Gt. Yarmouth. He showed his business was successful by buying a car & showing it in several of his pictures.

But even so Mr. Coates was not above ‘doctoring’ some of his photos, one example given was of the floral clock at Gt. Yarmouth which would appear to have been photographed on three consecutive years- the date having been altered – the equivalent to today’s cut & pasting- but the hotel & the cars in the background remaining exactly the same!

Andrew is collecting the cards all of which have an identifying number & he said that a few negatives are still around. On Mr Coates death the collection was given to the Wisbech Museum where it can be seen today. Andrew was kept busy answering questions at the end of a very enjoyable meeting where several new members were welcomed.

[Barbara Holmes]

October 2008

HALLOWEEN & MYTHS

At our November meeting we were entertained with a talk that involved audience participation, the speaker being the ever-popular Brian Jones. He explained that the pagan celebration of ‘Halloween’ had no original date but eventually fell on the Christian date of All Hallows Eve. The churches were often built on pagan sites, as this is where the populace we used to meeting.

At Halloween it was believed that when the sunset below the sky- line it descended into the world of spirits that had gone to hell & on Halloween the spirits came back, possibly as ghosts, for one night to find their earthly dwelling place & fireside. It was a time of danger as witches also practiced witchcraft noisily & could cause evil to human beings. Witches were thought to be able to change their form & become very light, hence having the ability to ride broomsticks, go up & down chimneys & hide in an egg shell. Children were told to turn their empty egg - shell over & make a hole in the bottom to stop a witch from hiding there. Fairies were said to meet in burials grounds on Halloween as this was the only safe place for them because the evil spirits were at large elsewhere.

In the Fens you were advised not to walk alone at night in case you were followed by the devil & should you turn around you would look into his eyes & your soul be lost. You would not hunt or shoot at Halloween in case you harmed a wandering spirit, nor would you tread on your own shadow. Animals were brought into shelter & had a burning twig passed over their backs to ward off disease & evil spirits. A Fenman would protect his house from evil spirits by placing Hawthorne over his door. Pumpkins would be placed outside the door & was supposed to scare away the witches.

The Victorians decided to enliven Halloween & because it was in the autumn when fruit was plentiful, apples & vegetables were used to foretell a young lady about her future. Trying to take a bite from apples hanging from a string, that had identifying marks put on them by the boys, might tell a young girl who her future husband could be and vice versa. Putting apple pips into the grate to see how they burned was another way & baking a dumb cake by mixing eggs flour water without speaking & patting into a flat cake, putting it in the grate overnight would result in cracked crust in which an initial letter of a future husband might be seen. Long apple peelings were thrown over the left shoulder in the hope that it would fall into the shape of an initial letter of your lover, & putting an apple beneath your pillow may cause you to dream of your future. Brain demonstrated other ways that the Victorians celebrated Halloween, with the audience participating & caused much laughter. Today the bobbing for apples is an off-shoot of these actions as is the ‘trick & treat’ which came over from America & to all intents & purposes has now got out of hand.

So just in case…. leave the door open & the fire banked up on Halloween to let the spirits come & go freely, break your egg shells, & don’t go out at night… just in case…

[Barbara Holmes]

November 2008

Social evening & speaker

Our November meeting started with the chairperson bringing us up to date with the Society’s activities when suddenly the King of Misrule entered the room very noisily & demanded to know why we had started the proceedings with out his permission. Dressed in the pagan costume the king turned out to be our speaker Brian Jones who explained that in pagan times any festivities would not take place without the King’s permission. Brian explained that the King would have a following of men of his choosing who saw that the rules were obeyed.

Brian went on to explain the many traditions & meanings of the activities around the event of Christmas. He spoke of Stir up day when Christmas puddings were made with the addition of silver coins, rings & thimbles, the history of the recipes for Christmas pudding & sweetmeats that in time became the mince pies of today.

Did you know that if you cut a mince pie in half it was said you would get bad luck for the following year? We were told the proper way to eat a pie was to take the lid off & count the number of currants stuck to the lid, as this told you how many wishes you could make, & that you should eat one mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas but that they must all be eaten in twelve different houses.

The Yule log, which should be as long as possible, must be dressed & have spirit poured over it & put into the fire end on to burn over the Christmas festivities & that a small piece of this log was saved to light the next years fire.

The history of hanging stockings up on the mantle piece & the decorations, the history of crackers and first footing had the audience laughing & joining in with Brian’s activities. These led onto the competitions for the evening which were trying to match baby /young child photos to the members who were at the meeting organised by Judy, followed by a Christmas quiz organised by Janet. Prizes were distributed to the winners.

There was a plentiful supply of food from the buffet & beverages supplied by the members & well organised by Barbara Bullen.

All the registers of the monumental inscriptions were available for members & guests to peruse & old photographs were on display.

The C.C.A.N. staff was available to scan any photos for addition to the Cambridgeshire Archives.

An evening full of activities & good cheer ended this year’s meetings. A Happy Christmas & a very good 2009 to you all.

[Barbara Holmes]

2007

November 2007

Talks & Social Evening

At our November meeting there were many photos, certificates & wedding memorabilia brought in by the members & shown on our newly acquired display boards. The pride of place was taken by a beautiful wedding dress, headdress & veil worn at a local wedding in 1903. The gown was made in Wisbech. There were also nightgowns & christening robes on display.

There were two speakers.

Mr Smithers of the Cambridgeshire Community Archives Network explained how each community was responsible for collecting & preserving photos on the web site (www.ccan.co.uk), & encouraged anyone who had old photos showing Wisbech & the surrounding area to take them along to the museum. At present, the National Lottery funds this venture but next year will see each community responsible for it’s own funding.

Our president, The Reverend Wym Zwalf, caused much laughter amongst the audience by quoting from amusing wedding speeches & wedding services & receptions that didn’t go according to plan. He mentioned a wedding that took place in Australia. The certificate stated that permission to marry was given by the governor & on further investigation it was found that the bride & groom were convicts who later obtained their release & went on to prosper.

Other members recalled some of their own family weddings.

There was a quiz on weddings & three competitions with prizes for the winners.

To round of the evening there was a splendid buffet & wine table, provided by the members & enjoyed by all.

[Barbara Holmes]

October 2007

SOLD, SEPARATED, DIVORCED

Ian Waller’s opened his talk at our October meeting by telling the audience that in the past as many wives as husbands sought to leave or desert their marriages. After 1858 all applications for divorce & wills were heard in London..

In 1927 District registrars were established to hear cases & in 1960 County Courts were able to hear divorce cases. After 1938 all divorce papers were destroyed after 20 years. Indexes can be found at the National Archives & some internet sites.

The Times Newspaper at one time recorded all divorce procedures & Palmers index is another source of information.

It is thought that 20% of marriages were never legal. The bonding of the two parties often only confirmed by ‘jumping the broomstick’ and that if the situation arose when husband/father died or disappeared the family collapsed & became chargeable to the parish.

Judicial separation took three avenues, Nullity, Annulment and Divorce, and were made by Consistency Courts.

Nullity covered situations such as underage marriage without parental consent.

Annulment covered adultery & cruelty & was a form of legal separation that protected the legitimacy of children and the wife’s rights.

Neither party could remarry.

An Act of parliament was necessary for divorce & was extremely expensive.

Private separation occurred by private deed papers when the husband had to provide a trustee for his wife & make provision for his children & included legal safeguards for the wife. This situation was not recognised by the church. Deeds can be searched in the Close Rolls (C54) at the N.A.

Desertion appeared to be the simple solution for a husband especially where there was no property involved. The wife & children became chargeable to the parish, although efforts were made to find the errant husband to make him pay for the upkeep of his family. Neither party was free to remarry & if a marriage did take place it was bigamous & carried a death sentence. Hence it is understandable that when searching for the husband it is worth looking at emigration records!

The sale of a wife caused great amusement amongst the audience as this usually took place on market days.

This action was often noted as a formal record in the market records.

It was done as an auction but often by pre arranged bidding. The cost of the wife being equated with her weight!

There was a symbolic transfer of person, property & responsibility to the buyer.

There was a public display of handing back the wedding ring (if the wife was fortunate to have one) & the payment of the fee.

Ian answered many questions to end the evening.

[Barbara Holmes]

September2007

AGM & Talk - TO SERVE THEM ALL OUR DAYS.

After our AGM our popular speaker Brian Jones talked to us about the working lives of servants, domestic & otherwise.

The employment of servants appears in all census from farm workers, grooms, gardeners & indoor cooks, maids, dressers, butlers, boot boys & general skivvies.

Their work covered 24 hours seven days a week with perhaps a half day off a week.

Family members often filled these posts & we saw that a daughter could be sent to a relative as a maid or nanny. References were always required so it is supposed that relatives could be trusted. Going into service was legally binding for at least a year.

Men & women, boys & girls would also go to Mop Fairs to make themselves available for hiring.

According to census the number of servants increased over the years until the wars, when men went to fight & women filled in the men’s jobs in factories etc, which the women liked as the hours although long were regular & they had more time off with better pay than when in service. This led to a shortage of domestic staff to the extent that people moved into smaller more easily run houses which needed fewer servants & we were shown examples of how one servant’s day was planned to cover all house hold duties plus that of the cook & laundress (thought - surely this is today’s working housewife!)

When the men returned from war they needed the employment, which left the women not wanting to go back to domestic service. Many decided to set up their own little businesses, such as door step cleaners, laundresses & the sort of jobs that the hard pressed domestic servant did not have time for- or would not do! As this type of service was cheaper than employing more full time staff the household would employ these ‘specialist workers’ & as a consequence these women flourished.

Some employers did value their servants & we were shown a Will in which a gentleman is supposed to have left everything he owned to his servants, each to receive what the servant had worked with as part of his job, eg. the cook got all the pots & pans etc. the groom, the horses & tack, the gardener, his tools & vegetables in the garden etc.

We also heard that at one time butlers were paid according to their height & we saw a picture of three tall upstanding butlers & what each was paid annually. A tall dignified butler apparently enhanced the employer’s standing in society!

Brian gave us a very interesting talk & he answered questions whilst we enjoyed our refreshments.

[Barbara Holmes]

July 2007

Looking for Black Sheep

Within minutes of starting her talk Linda Hotchkiss had her audience enthralled at our July meeting. The Lincolnshire genealogist demonstrated with film the sort of documents that are available to help us trace family members who ‘strayed from the straight & narrow’

She spoke of information that belongs to the courts & of police records. These often gave a description of the prisoner & this would delight any researcher. The prisoner’s crime, the sentence imposed by the court & the prison itself would be mentioned. Other documents were displayed & their accessibility for the researcher.

The meaning of legal terms were explained such as the Assize court where a sworn judge attended twice a year. Quarter sessions held four times a year in a county, & petty sessions held in the same place every week.

Newspapers at the time would record criminal events & their outcome.

We saw papers ordering the hanging & the deportation of prisoners for what would appear nowadays as ‘trivial offences’.

At the end of her talk Linda was kept very busy answering questions & we were able to look at the documents she had brought with her.

[Barbara Holmes]

June 2007

The Church of St Mary The Virgin West Walton

Our June meeting was held at St Mary the Virgin Church at West Walton.

Members & friends met in the parochial cemetery where Barbara & Ron explained how Mi’s were recorded & encouraged members to ‘have a go at recording an inscription.

We then met up in the church where members of the church & the village community project described the church & the changes that had taken place over the centuries.

The church was built of Barnack stone in 1240. Prior Albert is regarded as the founder of the church & his tomb is inside with the remains of a life size effigy upon it.

The tower built in 1250 is situated about 60 yards away & forms a lichgate entrance to the Church. This phenomenon is not unusual in Fenland as the structure of the land could not withstand the enormous weight of Church & Tower together, but legend has it that the Devil wanted the Tower for himself & tried to carry it away but found it too heavy & let it fall.

The Tower has bells installed although they are not now rung, as the stonework is not deemed to be strong enough to support the ringing.

In its time the church has been foreshortened & made wider & the roof has been replaced by a ‘second hand roof’’ from Suffolk.

During recent restoration work paintings high up on the nave walls were discovered.

It appears that they were painted to look like tapestries. There are many artefacts on the walls of the church stating the dates that repairs have been made & noting the rectors & churchwardens at the time.

There is a large wooden board telling of two great floods that the area suffered in the 1600’s

In 1960 several grave - stones were removed from the grave - yard

The Parochial cemetery is diagonally opposite to the church.

[Barbara Holmes]

May 2007

Show and Tell

Members of the Society gave two talks at the May meeting.

Barbara spoke about the preparation needed in recording of the Monumental Inscriptions in a cemetery, or church & showed how Ron drew up the plan ready for the recording team to use.

The audience was told how sometimes it was difficult to read the grave - stones & mentioned the ‘tricks of the trade’ to enable the scripts to be more easily seen, from brushing the stones or spraying with water to tracing the indentations with a pencil or simply waiting for the sunlight to move round.

We were then advised on the vast amount of family history that can be obtained sometimes about a whole family who have been interred in the same burial plot with birth dates & relationships, occupations quoted - even sometimes the stone masons name is evident.

Barbara then explained how the work was then typed up & transferred to a CD so that even if the graveyard or stones were destroyed, as was the case for the Baptist Church cemetery Upwell, there is a record made for posterity.

Although some would think the occupation of recording grave - stones in a cemetery is rather morbid Barbara told of the many ‘lighter moments’ she had experienced. Ron was able to tell of his ‘eerie encounter with the Monk’ who it is said ‘resides’ in the church at Elm….

Linda caused many a laugh as she told of her Search in the Fens for the female line in her family.

As with most families, Linda told of those relations who did not speak to others & how her information was gleaned from various family members and of the vast amount of information gained from all censuses. With this information she was able to follow the lives of her family, saying who married whom, their occupations, how they moved around the Fens & how she herself lives in close proximity to where most of her relations lived although several of the houses no longer exist.

Linda said that it would appear that the ladies were of strong character & ruled the roost & that many of the ladies ran ale - houses to get pocket money. Linda spoke at length of her prudent grandmother who was a keen business - woman who ended up buying several lorries & sending her farm produce to London & it would appear that grandma was not above a ‘bit of black market trade’ during the war.

Linda also explained that she had recently obtained a laminator & in preparing her papers showed us her first wrinkled attempts at using it - but there were other pictures of the family beautifully portrayed which members were able to see after her very amusing & informative talk.

[Barbara Holmes]

April 2007

Exploring Family History

Derek Palgrave gave our members & visitors an insight into how maps past & present help us trace our families. In the British Isles we were shown county boundaries & how they have ‘moved’ over the years.

He pointed out how surname spelling can alter from one county to another especially where dialect was present or the scribes wrote down names as they sounded rather than the correct spelling and members stated that they had come across this in their own research.

There were maps that showed locations where particular work or crafts were concentrated & the grouping of surnames in different areas, these taken form the 1881 census and now available on disc.

It was noted that family movements often followed the line of a river that could also be the natural boundary line.

From this Derek showed us plots of movement of specific families – his own included and he then spent a long time showing the concentration in different counties of the surnames taken from the members present. Such was the interest in this activity that the clearing of the hall at the end of the meeting went on around him & he was thanked for giving us a fascinating evening.

[Barbara Holmes]

February 2007

Abolition of Slavery

At our February meeting Brian Payne talked us about all the work done to achieve the Parliamentary Act to Abolish Slavery in 1807.

He began by speaking of the Clarkson Family.

Thomas Clarkson senior was headmaster at the Wisbech Grammer school & was curate at the Walsoken Church. He & his wife Ann had two sons, Thomas Clarkson junior & his brother John.

Thomas Junior was a book loving man & started his training for the church at the St.John’s College Cambridge, & eventually reached the position of Deacon.

John was the adventurous son & eventually took to the sea as a ship’s captain.

Whilst Thomas was at Magdelin College the Master set an essay competition & Thomas entered with an essay entitled ‘Is it lawful to make slaves of others against their wills’.

He won the competition & attended several meetings about this subject & on a journey to London he was considering what he had written & received what he believed was Divine intervention & knew that ‘God wanted him to follow through his belief about the urgent need to stop human slavery’

So he started to call on other bodies to help in his task in getting slavery abolished.

Thomas travelled to America & the Caribbean & saw for himself the terrible living & working conditions of the slaves.

He met with disapproval from all quarters such as sugar plantation owners & the owners of the ships that carried the slaves.

He needed support from parliament & was helped amongst others by William Wilberforce M.P.

Eventually The Act was passed with a small majority on 25th March 1807 & The Royal Assent obtained.

It was thirty years before the Act became in any way effective.

Ships captains were fined £100 for each slave they were found to be carrying in their ships & if approached at sea by the authorities the slaves would be thrown overboard.

Brian then told us that the chest of artefacts brought back by Thomas Clarkson from his travels abroad is on display at the Wisbech museum & that in this 200th year celebration it was being loaned to the London Westminster Palace. Throughout this year many activities are being arranged locally & elsewhere to celebrate the work of Thomas Clarkson including the refurbishment of Clarkson Statue situated near the river in Wisbech. 1807 was the beginning …the end is still not in sight.

[Barbara Holmes]

2006

October 2006

LOOKING INTO BYGONE DAYS
A peep into the past

The October meeting was sponsered by the Lincs C.C. Fens Food & Flower Festival who gave our Society a grant to purchase display screens.

These will be used, as they were at the meeting, to display our work as a society & also used as teaching aids & for displays at all our meetings & outside visits.

The hall was transformed with demonstrations showing many of the older crafts as patchwork, painting, decoupage, quilting, tapestry & crochet.

Our editor showed his skill at rag rug making & the ladies of the Lavender Lace Makers, in their smart lavender coloured tops, displayed exguisite samples of lace. It was fascinating to watch their nimble fingers at work & we were able to 'have a go'. Jean showed the art of spinning & we watched the artistry of the weavers.

Our member Ann showed her delicate touch when egg decorating.

The Cambridge Community Archives had leaflets showing people how to put their old photos, stories & anecdotes onto a web site.

Hetty from the Wisbech Museum had a table with curious objects which we were asked to identify.

Alison, who demonstrates for the National Trust, was kept busy giving tasty samples of old fenland recipes such as sausage clanger, fourses cake, & gooseberry& custard tart with written recipes available.

Our own Book Stall was on display as were tables showing oil lamps & candleholders with a history of lighting through the ages & a table full of memorabilia such as old carpentry tools, clothes, medicine bottles, kitchen tools, toy engines & much more.

Judy's family history was shown as a scroll at least four yards long!

Members & visitors were able to play games such as hoopla, braintease (solitaire), shove h'penny & halam - a game played with marbles.

Books were available on the Victoran Way of Life. WW2 & fashion for members to peruse.

Barbara Bullen did stirling work keeping every one supplied with tea & coffee as well as manning her own table of hand made cards.

It was an extremely interesting evening & pleasing to hear people talking about their own memories.

I wonder how many times the words 'Oh I remember when...' & Do you remember...' were quoted during the evening?

[Barbara Holmes]

September 2006

A PEEK INTO THE PAST

The September AGM meeting was followed by refreshments, and a presentation of a collection of photographs on screen & a talk on their acquisition.

Andrew Ingram, well known to our society for his extensive knowledge of local history, enthralled his audience with a new talk of history, anecdotes and a show of photographs of our local environment, some of which had been rescued from local tips & others given to Andrew. It was interesting to hear that many pictures were taken from glass slides that hadn’t been seen for many years.

We looked at photos of trains, buildings, the Wisbech canal, well-known local people, sports days, & of royal visits, from Peterborough to our local villages, from London to abroad. We saw images of the River Jordan, Bethlehem & Jerusalem, taken by his relatives when abroad. Andrew, as ever full of information told us that the water from the River Jordan was always used for our Royal Family baptisms.

He showed how dates could be given to pictures by looking at costumes, vehicles & shop fronts, & demonstrated that by detective work he was able to date precisely, a photo, from an unclear poster in a named shop window advertising the local ‘Mart Fair’ that only took place on a particular Wednesday in September. He used the local Kelly’s trade directory to establish the year the shop was in business & by using a rotating yearly calendar came up with the precise date.

We saw old familiar constructions like the old ‘Wisbech Gasometer’ & Octagon Church, now no longer in existence, but remembered by the photos taken.

There were many memories recalled by the audience after this talk, which was very well received.

[Barbara Holmes]

July 2006

WALPOLE ST. PETER CHURCH

Our July meeting saw members and guests from the King’s Lynn Family History Society enjoy a pleasant & very warm evening at Walpole St Peter at the church that Prince Charles & his guests visit.

After strolling around this large church the rector gave us a brief history of the building.

There has been a church on this site since 1021 & the present tower was built in 1300. A sea flood destroyed everything in 1337, except the tower. The rebuilding was set back in 1348 by the appearance of the disease known as the Black Death. A change from local agriculture to sheep farming provided much of the finance required to complete the work. As much wool as could be produced was exported to Belgium.

The present nave, which was divided by a rood - screen was the nave & chancel until 1425. It was at this time that the rood screen was moved to the east wall, the wall removed and the present chancel added with a magnificent stained glass east window. Although there is only the lower half of the rood screen remaining, the original paintings can still be identified.

The church has many windows letting more light in than was usual & today there is an ongoing programme of restoration work on the plain & stained glass windows.

There is an unusual western screen spanning virtually the width of the church behind the pews. This was thought to be either a ‘draught excluder ‘ or to keep the animals in one place when they were brought to church to pay tithes or for sale.

There is a very large table that was thought to be used by the congregation to sit at to eat their meals when they had had to walk a long way to church.

The rector took us on a tour demonstrating the use of the unusually deep font, which is covered by ornate wooden swing doors showing mermen, their origins & meaning unknown. We saw a poor box dated 1630 & a metal lined low rocking cradle, which we thought might have been used by the babies awaiting their baptism.

We then went to the chancel where the altar is about 7ft 6 ins above the church floor & was reached by several steps. The reason for this was that when the time came to build the altar it was found to encroach on a right of way, so a tunnel was formed & the altar built on top. This tunnel was known as the bolt hole & on going outside & walking through it we could see the iron rings in the wall where the horses were tethered & the dent in the ground which legend has is the spot where the Giant Hickathrift threw a cannon ball to frighten away the devil.

The majority of the church registers were stolen in the 1960s when the safe was removed from the church. The rest of the evening was spent looking at the few documents they have left with some replicas. People then strolled around the church themselves with a guide book which could be purchased, asked questions, look at paintings & carvings and enjoyed light refreshments served by the rector.

[Barbara Holmes]

June 2006

A VISIT TO LEVERINGTON CHURCH

Mr. Nightingale the churchwarden welcomed about 40 members to the Swaine Chapel within Leverington Church so called because most of the elaborate memorials on the walls & floor belonged to generations of the wealthy Swaine family of Leverington.

He explained that the Danes raided the area in about 678AD & landed on the then seashore about 400 metres from the village & that the name Leverington derives from that event. The word ‘ing’ means a family, ‘ton’ means a settlement, & lever derives from ‘Leof Here’ meaning ‘happy landing party’.

In about 850 the settlement had become Christian & a small wooden church was built, this in time was destroyed & there are parts of the church in stone that date back to 1250. The present church dates from the 14th and 15th centuries.

We were told how in the past the chancel of the church was used by the church dignitaries & was screened from the nave by a three tiered rood screen, & the nave being used not only for church services but for meetings, buying & selling, with animals roaming around & as a social centre. We were all amazed to hear that the altar rail as we know it was not used as a place to take communion but placed there to keep the dogs away from the altar!

The informative talk continued with a tour of the church. We heard how the font, which is centuries old is in a sad state as the salts in the stone are extruding & urgent repair work by experts must be carried out before the font crumbles completely.

We saw a very uncommon wooden lectern, which in its time was thought to be too gaudy for the church when it was painted green so it was abandoned to the coal hole, & on renovation the original gilt decoration was uncovered

The Jesse Window was pointed out to us which shows the lineage of Christ.

We were then free to tour the church ourselves & look at the registers & the altar silver.

Guidebooks were available, as were refreshments. Members spent another hour taking photos & asking questions & others spent their time researching the registers.

[Barbara Holmes]

February 2006

‘THE SURPRISE FIND’

Our February meeting was organised by the men of our Society. Their task was to display their own surprise finds & discuss them with members and guests.

Martin showed that by investigating other than close relatives, especially when using the web, much information might be obtained. In Martin’s case a web site showed the working life on the railways in Birmingham of his Gt Gt Grandmother’s brother, Richard Bore, who from Ag. Lab. background rose to be the Carriage Superintendent responsible for the design, construction & performance of all passenger rolling stock, including Queen Victoria’s Saloon. Documents showed how he gave evidence after a rail accident in 1873 & another document - 15 pages long - that was a copy of the complete Minutes of Evidence to the Royal Commission of Rail Accidents in February 1875. From all this information Martin was able to find out that Richard also worked in America and on the continent. These documents represent a great find & surprise & his advice is ‘ not to ignore your ancestors‘ siblings’.

Ron was at Kew to get a copy of his Grandfather’s naval records. Whilst searching the film he was surprised & delighted to come across his Gt Uncle’s naval records. Previously only knowing that Gt Uncle was interred in Norway during the war the surprise find of his naval record’s showed details of his naval career & his date of repatriation. Further research on Gt. Uncle showed, on leaving the navy he worked as an attendant at one of three swimming baths in Bedford. Grandfather went to the Balloon Sheds in Cardington working on the R101 & had pictures of the balloon on its 2nd day out of the sheds.

After this he worked on the railway. Both sets of Naval Records were on display, together with artefacts and photos.

Mr. Horsepole was able to show copies of several letters from Florence Nightingale to his relative, a medical attendant at Scutari, of whom she thought most highly. Her letters always showed great consideration for the man & his family. A letter showed Florence offering a post at the London Hospital when the man had to leave Scutari.

Paul used a computer generated programme & photos to show his Grandfather who was a Postmaster & Grocer who also bred pigs, ended up buying a bacon factory and manufactured pork pies & sausages.

Hayden had a grand display of carefully labelled family portraits & photos showing several generations.

He also ran a competition –trying to name the place in an old photo, which showed gardens, & a commercial greenhouse in Wisbech, in the mid 1800s.

There were help desks & fiche readers for research and light refreshments were served all evening.

[Barbara Holmes]

January 2006

PUBS & INNS OF WISBECH - ANDREW KETLEY

Our January meeting provided the first ever audience for Andrew Ketley, a local man. A friend who had done several sketches of the drinking establishments in Wisbech gave them to Andrew and this encouraged Andrew to further research into archives, maps, and papers.

We were told that the meanings of words like inn, tavern, public house, hotel, beer/ale house all differed slightly in their regard to the location of the establishment and the services they offered. With the aid of computer displayed pictures we were taken on a tour of the local environs and shown the position of named pubs in Wisbech in the 1800’s with the sketches. It was common for pubs to change their name when new owners took over. Andrew’s diligent research uncovered many gruesome stories attached to some pubs, such as murders, attacks, drownings of the pubs inhabitants & suicide. Coroners inquests were often held in the pubs with the corpse taken to the pub in the coffin, so that the jury could see the body & ‘confirm the cause of death’!

Many pubs & hotels are still here today & several more have changed their use & frontage and others have disappeared altogether & it is with the maps that we see where they had been. At one time there had been about 168 drinking places in Wisbech & one could wonder how they all made a living.

After the extremely interesting & well - researched talk Andrew was kept busy answering questions and showing members & guests the books & papers he had with him.

[Barbara Holmes]

2005

November 2005

NONCONFORMISTS

The Reverend Wym Zwalf was our speaker for our November meeting. His talk told us how the church ‘fell out’ in 1054 over mans interpretation of the words in the Bible quoting the Creed, leading to the division of the church of the Catholic Church on the one hand & the Non Conformists on the other. Over time the non-conformists then ‘divided’ again giving us the Independents in 1550. Congregationalists, a primitive church ruled by elders & ministers. The Presbyterians - strictly Calvinistic, who similarly agreed to a hierarchy of a governing body. The Baptists in 1609 who decreed that children could not be baptised because they could not speak for themselves, & that adults were to be baptised by full immersion in water. The Methodists instigated by John Wesley in 1738 after he had attended a church meeting &‘felt his heart strengthen’. Methodists were given to serious study & commitment & their doctrines were the same as the Church of England but they were not welcomed so that their meetings were often held outdoors & drew in the working people. The Methodists were the first to introduce hymns into religious services, before this only psalms & passages from the Bible were chanted.

The Corporation Act of 1661 was designed to restrict public office to members of the Church of England ie those who were prepared to take Holy Sacrament according to the Rites of the Church of England. In 1673 the same Act was applied to Roman Catholics & Protestant dissenters. In 1820 both Acts were repealed by parliament.

There was much more fascinating information & Wym was kept busy answering members questions during the social evening that followed with refreshments provided by the members .

The very enjoyable evening ended with a speaker from designated groups of people telling their own family history anecdotes & exchanging ideas on family research.

[Barbara Holmes]

October 2005

TALKING JUNK
By RICHARD BARNWELL

Those who did not get to our October meeting missed a very entertaining night. Richard, a member of the Society, displayed & spoke about some of his large collection of memorabilia or junk as he called it. As an avid collector Richard told us how he got started with his ‘hobby’ & how it has virtually taken over his life & office space, even though he holds selling auctions. Books from the 1800s were passed around for closer inspection & items of great value to pieces that were worth practically nothing were shown. Audience participation was encouraged & Richard was impressed by the knowledge we had in identifying the more obscure pieces.

Richard spoke of clearing houses & being told the owners had thrown out ‘the junk’ because nobody wanted it & himself retrieving ‘the junk’ which was probably more valuable than the furniture that had been ‘saved’.

On being asked about his favourite ‘item’, Richard said that his wife, also interested in his collection, was his favourite closely followed by his childhood teddy bear & that amongst his collection many items were his favourites.

The meeting ended when Richard read a poem about Wisbech called ‘The Gem’ by John Hartford of Wisbech St.Mary.

Books, cookery items, farm implements & much more was on display and at the end of the meeting we were able to examine ‘the junk’ & Richard was kept busy answering questions & examining items brought in by the audience.

[Barbara Holmes]

September 2005

BOOT AND SHOE MAKERS

Our September meeting began with the AGM and was followed immediately by a fascinating talk on the manufacture of boots and shoes given by Geoff Lee. The talk was well illustrated by slides of shoes and fashion changes through the ages.

We saw a diagram of the 13 parts needed to make a hand made leather Oxford mans shoe.

There is evidence from wall paintings that the Egyptians wore sandals. Plain style for the common folk and elaborate sandals with curled toe sections for the elite.

The Romans were the first to have an industry for making footware. They tanned leather and made strong sandals that had riveted soles through an insole. Second century invaders made a turn shoe that was made inside out for easier construction & then turned and made waterproof.

Originally shoes were made with no left or right fittings, one wore the shoes & they moulded themselves the persons own foot shape.

In our family trees we often see the word cordwainer to describe a boot & shoe maker which is in fact a misnomer, for a cordwainer was a man who handled & provided the skins of mouflon sheep & goats skin to the shoe maker who worked from his home. We heard that to call a shoemaker a cobbler was an insult.

Every village would have several boot makers, often father & son plying their own businesses & in the cities there would be hundreds.

We saw slides of the very uncomfortable looking shoes worn by Henry V111, & shoes & boots, some in remarkable condition found aboard Henry’s ship ‘Mary Rose’.

In 1650 woman wore peculiar high heeled shoes called clap shoes - this because of the sound of a loose part of the extended shoe sole hitting the heel as they walked- a fashion statement no doubt.

In 17C silk mules with shaped heels, were worn by gentleman.

In 1750 it became fashionable for men to show their wealth by wearing silver buckles on their shoes.

In 1800 ladies often made their own shoes from fabric and added elaborate embroidery, & we saw the tools they used.

In 17C apprentices were trained to become shoemakers, going on to become journeymen & then setting up their own business.

Boot and shoemakers joined the armed services to provide boots & shoes to the troops in the field.

It is known that a farmer employing Ag. Labs had to provide the men with boots for the first year.

In industry shoes were hand made by many processes before a shoe was complete. Each man had his own tools & never changed his particular process.

Progress brought machines to do the work and the need for workers diminished until today when leather is not often used & the whole process is virtually automated.

The talk finished with Geoff showing his family history of cordwainers. .

[Barbara Holmes]

August 2005

WISBECH GENERAL CEMETERY

We were taken round the cemetery at our August meeting by Sue Beale & Sarah Ledger who belong to the Friends of the Leverington Road Cemetery Society.

The grave - yard at St Peter & St Paul Church in Wisbech was full & the area became a source of infection. As a consequence a three - acre parcel of land was purchased in 1836 from the non-conformist Mr Joshua Bland, primarily for the burial of non-conformists. A company was formed & shares sold although the burial ground never showed a profit. The ground was set out as a formal garden with trees & shrubs & a chapel was built within the grounds. A photograph of the chapel taken by Samuel Smith was shown. Several prominent Wisbech people, including Samuel Smith were buried there. There have been 6,500 burials in the grounds over 100 years. Long closed the cemetery fell into decay & became very overgrown. It became the property of the Cambridgeshire County Council.

In 1992 a group of volunteers joined with the Fenland District Council, The National Trust & the Wisbech Tourism Group, amongst others to formulate a plan of restoration & long term management.

This has produced areas of clearance, replanting of young trees & plants, restoration of some of the memorials stones to create a pocket park for tourism, educational purposes, studies & to give access to wildlife. Ongoing are ecological studies & an updating of the history of the site.

We were shown the elevated area of the cemetery where the rich & well known people were buried - proven by the very elaborate & large memorial stones.

The chapel is in a dangerous state of collapse & the area has now been cordoned off whilst a decision on what should happen to the chapel is reached. The friends continue to maintain the pathways & some memorials. Several benches have been placed in the cemetery allowing one to sit & contemplate, & relax in this peaceful pocket park.

The tourist office has a register of burials & the volunteers are pleased to help & advise anyone researching this area for the burial of family within the cemetery.

We visited in the evening & the light was not the best for viewing, but we were encouraged to visit again during the brighter daylight to appreciate this peaceful area.

We left full of admiration & appreciation for so much work done by volunteers, which it would appear will go on ad infinitum.

[Barbara Holmes]

July 2005

UPWELL ST. PETERS CHURCH & VILLAGE

Our meeting on July 28th took place at St. Peters Church Upwell. A group of about 50 members & guests were taken first to the west gallery, which gave us a splendid view of the church & especially the east window. Mr Keith Bradley, a member of the church then gave a short talk on the history of Upwell village & the church. Upwell was a very important waterway & port. Sea going ships came from Ely & Peterborough via the rivers Nene & Ouse through Upwell & Outwell to Wisbech & then on to the Wash.

The 7th century saw the founding of a Benedictine priory at Upwell by Etheldreda the founder of Ely cathedral. It was built close to the river & probably suffered attacks from the Vikings. In about AD 969 a further priory was built much farther away from the river.

In the 13th century a new church was built on the site of an earlier Saxon one. This was built with a red brick & iron bound conglomerate which can be seen today. The stone was brought by barge & unloaded at the quayside.

Inside the church we saw the north gallery. This was built in the 1830s to accommodate an expanding congregation. Parishioners were brought to church from surrounding villages by horse drawn barge known as Mr. Townleys Packet. On the front of the gallery we saw the magnificent coat of arms belonging to the Townley family. On the back of the gallery could be seen 2 very long heavy poles with large iron hooks, these were attached to horses to help pull burning thatch from houses.

We then toured the church & Mr Bradley showed us the wall plaque commemorating a crusader’s burial, & several monumental inscriptions on the walls. He pointed out the brass Asiatic cholera memorial, a time when 67 people died from the disease. At the chancel steps we saw the lectern, which is made of the yellow alloy known as latten, & the pulpit to the right of the centre aisle, which is unusual, because this positioning is usually only found in a cathedral. On looking up we could see the beautiful angel roof.

There was time to wander around the church after partaking of splendid refreshments supplied by the ladies of the church. We were able to look at the altar silverware & learned that this was kept in pristine condition by using only hot soapy water & a soft cloth. Registers of births, deaths & marriages were on display & people were able to look at them & discover some of their own family connections.

Several people took the opportunity to visit the graveyard & look at the cholera graves & the area of the Quaker burials. The Roman pavement (tesserae) found when digging in the graveyard is now set in the ground outside the west door.

A splendid evening came to a close with the presentation to Mr Bradley of a CD of the Monumental Inscriptions from the graveyard & those inside the church. This was produced by members of the society.

We would like to thank Mr. Bradley, & the ladies who supplied refreshments for a most enjoyable evening, & also Rev. Jesson for allowing the group to visit this fascinating church. There is an information booklet available in church which would help people enjoy their first or return visit to this great building.

[Barbara Holmes]

June 2005

FAMILY HISTORY DAY

June 18th 2005 was our 2nd family history all day event. A hot sunny day brought a steady stream of members & visitors to St Peter’s Church Hall. The morning & afternoon saw all the usual facilities available to help people with their family history research & we heard of successes & progress made.

A display board showed the on going work projects of the Fenland Family History Society with general information & photos.

The bookstall was set up & Martyn Thompson was able to display the latest Monumental Inscriptions recorded now in CD form.

Light refreshments were available all day, the kitchen being manned by Barbara Bullen & her helpers.

The first talk by Brian Jones, who stepped in at the last minute due to the illness of the original speaker, was on the arrival of CHRISTIANITY IN THE FENS.

He spoke of the establishment of the abbeys in fenland, mentioning especially the one at Thorney. He also spoke of the arrival of the Huguenots who came from Holland to escape catholic persecution. They brought different & beneficial skills to fenland & integrated well in to the area. Their descendants are around today although the spellings of their names may have changed due to the difficulty in the pronunciation of ‘foreign names’ by the local fen men. Brian’s talk was illustrated by slides & at the end of his talk there was much discussion & a question & answer session, there being several people present with possible Huguenot connections.

Brian’s talk was about OPEN SPACES

Brian took us from the times of & what was meant by common lands, to the time when people were allocated strips of land in various parts of their locality, through to the Act of Parliament which established enclosure of lands & the strips of land being sold to make larger areas of land until most were eventually owned by two or three people only. Again illustrated by slides it made the explanations easy to understand.

After lunch Lyn Hopwood gave us a marvellous display of VICTORIAN CLOTHES.

An avid collector, Lyn was able to give us the history of the clothes she displayed, how she obtained them & how they were preserved for the future (& what was to happen to the collection on her demise). One very slim young lady was chosen to be dressed, very bravely for it was a very hot afternoon, as a Victorian lady, from the unmentionables below to her morning dress. Lynn also had members of the audience dress in various capes, hats & accessories to show the clothes of the different classes of people of the time. After wearing the clothes for the afternoon we then saw the young lady disrobed, much to her relief, of her dress, petticoats & corsets. Yes she did stop at the unmentionables!

At the end of her talk Lyn let the audience examine & handle the clothes. We were able to see the beadwork & fine stitching on some of the gowns, & Lyn was kept very busy answering questions for quite some time.

The very enjoyable day ended with a question & answer session with Brian Jones in his usual light- hearted manner & he was thanked by the chairman, especially for stepping in at the last moment for the first speaker.

[Barbara Holmes]

May 2005

THE JEWELS OF KEW

Sue & Jonathan Farmer were the speakers at our May meeting. Sue began the talk by taking us on a 97 miles informative tour of the National Archives. This is the amount of space required to house all the records safely. She told us what could & could not be found at Kew & the Family Record Centre in Islington & the best way to do our searches. The documents held at Kew are many & varied, from records of central government to maps & tithes and records for armed forces to legal documents & taxes. The list was endless. Sue spoke about the library & explained that if you asked for a particular item with as much information as possible, the helpful staff would find if for you or at least knew where to send you. She amused us by recounting the story of a lady who asked for 'the gold book' & with this very limited information the correct book was acquired.

We were told of the facilities for photocopying records when we found them & that our own digital cameras could also be used, providing they were checked in on entrance.

Advice was given on how to equip ourselves with as much information as possible about our own research needs, before a trip the National Archives, firstly to save time when we got there & secondly to help the staff to help us when we had queries.

Jonathan continued the talk on how he became involved with the work at Kew. He then illustrated with slides & explained the information leaflets available at Kew that would ease our research tasks. He told us what was available at Kew on computer & on line at home. He again stressed the need to go 'fully equipped with information' when visiting The National Archives & the talk ended with Sue & Jonathan answering questions. An evening, which we hope, encouraged all to visit the National Archives at Kew.

[Barbara Holmes]

March 2005

DATING VICTORIAN PHOTOGRAPHY

BA small group of members listened to the well known speaker Tom Doig as he took us through the progress of photography from the days of cave dwelling paintings & the true ‘photo’ when hands were placed on cave walls & drawn around –a true likeness then as photos are today. He reminded us of our school experiments with photographic paper, leaves & sunlight. Tom spoke of the work of people like Josiah Wedgewood & Humphrey Davy & their attempts to put pictures on plates using soot & silver salts, the 12 hour exposure times needed & the lack of success in keeping the ‘photos’ for more than a few minutes in the light.

We heard how the first photos in negative form were put onto glass & then backed by black mastic. This, by optical illusion turned the photograph to a positive.

Tom showed several slides of photos taken during the years 1840 –1900. He described the poses & the equipment such as neck braces & tables used to keep the subject still during the exposure time, which would be for several minutes, & how from what we could see the date could be worked out.

In later years the backs of photographs were used to advertise the photographer’s patronage, his address, the negative number etc, all of which changed gradually with time. We heard descriptions of various photo frames & how they were made up with such items as silver fillets & various shaped board frames sprayed gold, the tooling of the surrounding leather & the impressed hinged covers made by rolling through a mangle, a mixture of coal dust, milk & sulphuric acid which was then left to harden in the sun. We were able to see such a cover on an old album brought in by a member. The frames they were set in, as well as the style of photo & sometimes the dress of the people could also help to assess the dates of photos.

At the end of his talk Tom had a group of members & visitors at his table discussing their own photos.

[Barbara Holmes]

February 2005

SHORT TALKS BY THE COMMITTEE

Bad weather conditions & a long travelling distance caused our speaker to cancel his talk to the Society at our February meeting.

In spite of snow & the bitterly cold night about 35 people listened to talks given by Bridget our chairperson, & members of the committee who were ‘encouraged’ by Bridget to produce 10 minute talks at the last moment. Bridget started the evening off by recalling the misdemeanours of her family in the past & how Scottish Church law was applied to these wrongdoings, & how the wrongdoers evaded their penance. She also spoke of adoption & the way to find adoption papers. She then took us on a journey by an 8seater plane to North Ronaldsy in the Orkney Isles. It was fascinating to hear how she & Peter arrived on the island as strangers & how they left with most of the inhabitants, some found to be relatives, waving them off from the cow field which acted as the airport.

Barbara then gave a glimpse into the treatments of illnesses & accidents learned from her Grandmother whilst living with her. She read a recipe dated 1802 (from the newly acquired reference library book ‘Medicine in Wisbech & the Fens 1700 onwards’) for a poultice for sore legs, made with lots of natural herbs, flowers, leaves & oils. Barbara spoke of treatments, which could only have worked by the placebo effect & some medications, which were quite dangerous but ‘did the job’. She also mentioned today’s versions of some of the old treatments. Her talk was followed by the refreshment break & several members came & spoke to Barbara about their own recollections of grandma’s treatments.

Anita caused many laughs with her light - hearted talk on Murphy’s Law for genealogists, (akin to Sod’s law in every day life) examples of which most researchers have met up with. She spoke of the ink used in family bibles to record family events to be the only ink that fades beyond legibility –how the page you want to research on the web is smudged & unreadable when the pages on either side are crystal clear – how your favourite uncle never wrote anything down because he had a memory like a filing cabinet but unfortunately died the week before you were going to visit him to ask about family. How papers that would have answered that long researched question had been burned & how some records searched for were proved to be incorrect.

As most of us have come across such stumbling blocks we fully appreciated Anita’s talk & could be led to believe that some things are not to be known!

Peter then spoke of Witches in the Fens. There seemed to very few in Cambridgeshire, the last one known possibly being at Ramsey. The audience did not know of any witches but we suppose there were some ‘good & bad’.

[Barbara Holmes]

January 2005

WINDMILLS & MILL WRIGHTS

Brian Jones was our speaker for the January meeting. Brian opened his talk by telling us of the crusaders experience of windmills in Persia in the 3rd century BC, & that they later brought that knowledge to our shores coupled with their skill of building towers.

The millwright was looked upon as a skilled workman with a social standing just below the gentry. Despite this it was not uncommon for a millwright to become bankrupt two or three times during his working life as the last payment for the mill was not made until the mill had been working for some time.

Often a family business the wife was also involved especially when the windmill sails were covered with canvas, as it was she who would sew the canvas.

We heard that the millwright built the mill as well as repairing & maintaining it. A fact that many in the audience had not realised.

Apparently one way of telling if a man was a good millwright was to look at his hands, and if he had some fingers missing then this showed a skilled man. This came about from having to lubricate the moving parts of the mill with goose grease, and fingers getting trapped in cogs & wheels!

We heard that Norfolk & Lincolnshire had a large number of mills because of the steady flow of water in these areas & that Cambridgeshire had fewer because the water only oozed from the fen ground.

Brian spoke of the different types of mills that were built as time progressed, from post mills, round house, the smock mills with the tops able to rotate & tower mills that rotated & were self-steering.

From women grinding corn between two stones to windmills used for grinding, to water mills which gave way to mills driven by steam to lift water from one level to another.

All aspects of the millwright’s life were illustrated by slides.

The intricate machinery inside the mill was also explained to us and that the millwright was responsible for all.

A fascinating talk that was followed by many questions that Brian answered in his usual light hearted way.

[Barbara Holmes]

2004

October 2004

TRAVELLERS & GYPSIES

Peter Edwards was the speaker for the well-attended October meeting. Being of Romany decent and having done his own family history research Peter gave us a fascinating description of Romany life.

The gypsies originated from Northern India hence, he explained the dark hair in ringlets & sallow complexion. Over the centuries they crossed Europe and arrived in Scotland in 1515 & were called ‘Egyptians’.

The Irish gypsies came over during the potato famine & are a different people entirely. The Irish & ‘Egyptians’ never mixing in normal circumstances, both having different ‘standards’ & ways of life.

Peter spoke of the family names such as Lee, the Scamps of Kent, and Lovell, Wood the celebrated family of Bala North Wales the Toogoods, Buckland, Smith & Jones & many more. There was an inclination to change ones name if the situation called for it, but surnames were often taken from the female line.

The first names were also very different some being Comfort, Crimea, Ishmael, Malachi, Samson & of course Delilah, Shandras, Uriah & again many more.

Their occupations were many & varied, for without doubt if one did not work one did not eat! They were good & knowledgeable horse traders, dealers in scrap metal, a lucrative business apparently as one of Peter’s relatives, himself a scrap metal dealer, now owns many race horses. Hawking, land work, basket & peg making, knife sharpeners & so on. Fortune telling was left to the women folk. Peter showed us an anvil used by a relative who was a tinker who would repair your pots & pans. It would appear that there was no job a gypsy could not do. They were also antique dealers although the method of obtaining the antiques was dubious. They carried their wealth as gold earrings & rings on their fingers but had few other possessions.

In 1824 The Vagrancy Act was passed & begging was made illegal. Those caught were fined £5 or jailed just for being a gypsy in some cases. Peter recalled his grandfather, a great drinker, & all the troubles he got into. Although gypsies have a high moral standard especially when it comes to their children, they were not above’ breaking the law ‘& Peter told of his relatives who were apprehended for attempted murder, bigamy,’ furious’ driving of horses, counterfeiting & being drunk & disorderly especially on cider. The magistrates were kept busy with the misdeeds of the gypsies, seeing the same people on a regular basis. They travelled around following the work as dictated by the seasons often turning up at the same place at a certain time of year.

The diet was mentioned being mostly what could be found in the hedgerow like hedgehog, rabbit & fruits. Bread & milk was often obtained by begging from the farmers who provided work for the gypsies. Their health was good, many of Peter’s relatives living well into there 90’s. It is believed that hard work & an outdoor life although hard was tranquil.

The true Romany cares for nature, never leaving the site untidy or destroyed even to the point of cutting out turf to make a fire & then returning the turf when they leave. Peter showed us an original iron used for holding a kettle over a fire. Photographs and handouts were available & the meeting ended with many people asking questions.

[Barbara Holmes]

September 2004

THE HISTORY & TRADITIONS OF THE WISBECH ODDFELLOWS
‘MAKING FRIENDS AND HELPING PEOPLE’

At our September meeting & after the A.G.M, Keith Adamsom, Director of The Oddfellows gave an interesting talk about the origins of the Oddfellows & particularly of the Lodge in Wisbech & surrounding districts.

In the 12 century, Guilds were established for groups of people belonging to the professions. The Oddfellows were so called because their various occupations did not let them belong to the Guilds, so they banded together to form their own society. The reason for their existence was bound closely to the teachings of the Church in that they gave care, sustenance & friendship to those in need.

In 1700 the society was considered illegal because of the fact that to belong one had to take an oath, which some considered to be against the church’s teaching.

An Act of Parliament made the societies illegal & Henry 8th took their monies for the royal coffer. Elizabeth 1 sold back to them their Charter.

In 1834 the Tolpuddle Martyrs were deported for belonging to an illegal society. The society had to be kept secret so special passwords & handshake was instigated as a form of communication and despite their illegality the society grew.

In 1837 the Northern district established the Neptune Branch of Wisbech. The branch was still considered illegal, but continued to care for & befriend others as it does today.

In 1839 Surgeon Tubbs became a member. Members paid 1 shilling a week so that the doctor could give them medical care.

These societies were the fore runners of today’s Trade Unions

Keith then demonstrated the meaning of the symbols on their banner showing that the society still adheres to the teachings of the church.

He spoke of the social functions they arrange - how the young members receive vouchers at Christmas and trips to the pantomime.

He brought with him a large board showing the names of Grand Masters of the Wisbech branch from 1838. He also demonstrated the way that voting was carried out by putting one’s hand into a covered box & dropping a ball into the yes or no section of the box. Other regalia was on display. There were minute books from 1854 & 1873, which many people were able to examine at the end of the evening.

[Barbara Holmes]

2003

27 February 2003

Writing Family Biographies, Geoffrey Lee

Geoffrey Lee illustrated his talk about writing family biographies at our February meeting with examples from his own and his wife's ancestors. "If you do not record an event that you have discovered about your ancestor," he said, "it may be lost forever". To that end, the majority of the talk described the various sources from which the material for family biographies can be collected. The normal sources for the barebones facts such as parish records, civil registration and the census were covered before concentrating on how to "put the flesh on the bones".

Geoffrey and his wife come from service families and there is a wealth of recorded information about any person who served in the forces. This can be found not only in the wide range of PRO records but also in regimental magazines, books and museums. Re-enactment associations are a more unusual source. From all of these, a full picture of the movements and conditions of life of an ancestor can be built up and, if they were involved in a major incident or battle, detailed descriptions of the event can be found in non-military sources.

The occupations of other ancestors will also provide material for some, such as the examples given of a shoemaker and a fireman, details of their career may be recorded. Where this is not the case, general background material can be found in books, museums and old photographs.

However, the majority of our ancestors, and this includes most of the women, will have left no trace beyond the barebones of birth, marriage and death but there is still flesh to be added. Old maps, old photographs, local history and rural life museums, local archives and books can provide details about where they lived, the church they used and the type of life they would have had. All this can be added to the family photographs, documents and artefacts. Geoffrey finished his talk by outlining the ways that this wealth of biographical information can be recorded and illustrated with these items as well as audio and video tape recordings. He closed by emphasising that we owe it to future generations to do this for our own lives if not for anyone else.

[Sue Paul]

27 Mar 2003

Witches & Ghosts of Cambridgeshire

There was another large turn out to welcome the return of Mike Petty, former Librarian for the Cambridgeshire Collection, to the Society's March meeting. On this occasion, Mike entertained us with his talk on the Witches and Ghosts of Cambridgeshire starting by introducing his brand new book of a selection of 350 photographs of Cambridgeshire from the photographic survey by the Cambridge Antiquarian Society.

Starting with Naomi's story, Mike chilled us with ghost stories from throughout the county based on contemporary eyewitness accounts and backed up by facts from the usual family history sources - records of births, marriages and deaths, electoral rolls and newspapers. In between the ghost stories, we heard tales of witches from the time of Hereward the Wake up until 1915, grave robbing and hangings.

Although, as Mike said, "not a proper lecture" there was a strong lesson about how we can test and flesh out our own family history stories with solid research. Yet again, a very enjoyable and informative evening.

[Sue Paul]

22 May 2003

Newspapers for Family Historians, Christine Morris

Christine Morris, who works for the Family Tree Magazine at Ramsey, was welcomed to our May meeting to talk to us about Newspapers for Local and Family History. Christine gave us a short history of newspapers, information about the British Library's newspaper archive at Colindale and examples of how newspapers have helped in her own personal research.

Newspapers have a very long, but patchy, history in this country. The volume available at anyone time has depended on the availability of paper, licensing regulations and the level of censorship at each period. For many centuries newspapers had no illustrations although the earliest had engravings. Photographs started appearing in the late 19th century. Until relatively recently, local news was not seen to be important and local newspapers contained mainly out of date national news.

Old newspapers can be found at local libraries and record offices but the primary source in this country is at Colindale, North London. This repository hold 650,000 volumes on 15 miles of shelving and its holding are growing at 900 foot a year. British publishers are obliged to provide one copy of every item published to the British Library. Overseas material is also held.

Old newspapers are not easy to read but can reward you with much material for your family history research. They may be the only extant source of coroners' reports supplying details of the death on an ancestor. Obituaries can provide information about the whole life of an individual while lists of mourners and floral tributes included can provide details of relatives, including those who have moved away from the area, perhaps even overseas. Obituaries, as well as modern newspapers retrospective articles, may direct researchers to contemporary accounts of events in our ancestors' lives. Imagine the joy of finding that your ancestor has been interviewed by his local newspaper!

Finally, the Internet is always a valuable source. Many indexes to newspapers are published on the Web and Colindale has a good website including a search by area facility.

[Sue Paul]

23 October 2003

An Introduction to Researching British Orders, Decorations and Medals, Jim Lees

The Society enjoyed a talk by Jim Lees titled "An Introduction to Researching British Orders, Decorations and Medals."

Jim explained the history of medals and explained how they were awarded for galantry in action, length of service or for an event.

The talk was illustrated with medals and the history of both the medals and the lives of the individuals who were awarded those medals.

Jim also gave us details of were to find the military records of those who had served in the armed forces. He proved very knowledgeable and was able to help members with their queries on the items they had brought along to have identified.

[Paul Brighton ]

2002

24 January 2002

Mysteries surrounding marriages, births and baptisms in the 1800's

At the first meeting of 2002 over 60 members gathered to hear the speaker, Tom Doig, entertain us well with a very informative and funny insight of the mysteries surrounding marriages, births and baptisms in the 1800's. We all learned the meaning behind names and terms that are all too familiar. Tom explained the truth about pregnancy before marriage, and the formalities and costs of marriage. Tom completed his fascinating talk by enlightening us in the mysteries surrounding birth, confinement and baptism. Everyone enjoyed a most informative lecture.

[Bridget Hunter]

25 April 2002

Fenland in the 19th century

More than 60 members and a number of guests enjoyed a fascinating talk about Fenland in the 19th century by Mike Petty. Librarian for the Cambridgeshire Collection for over 30 years, many members know Mike from his regular "Memories" and "Looking Back" articles in the Cambridge Evening News. We learned how the Fens depended on water but were also constantly at risk from it despite the protective measures taken over the years. Strangers were also seen as a risk to be mitigated by exploitation. In the voices of the area, Mike explained the threats to Fen lifestyles brought by strangers, innovations and the demands of a changing world, and how the independent Fen people reacted to these threats with riot and insurrection. A very enjoyable and informative evening.

[Sue Paul]

23 May 2002

Finding your way round the Census

Nearly 70 members and guests enjoyed a very good May meeting. The Speaker, Society member Brian Jones, entertained and educated us with his talk, "Finding your way round the Census". There was something for everyone in the talk, even those who had made use of the census for years Brian explained the similarities and differences in what was recorded on the census, and how it was recorded, over the period 1841 and 1901 along with the problems that can be encountered. Some censuses are easier to use than the others, because they have been widely transcribed (e.g. 1851) and even made available on CD (e.g. 1881). However, no matter which census we are using, we can "read between the lines" and make inferences about such things as infant mortality but we should also make assumptions with care. The census only recorded what the enumerator believed he had been told. Brian's talk was enlivened throughout with amusing anecdotes about resulting in yet another enjoyable and informative evening.

[Sue Paul]

26 July 2002

Back to School

Members of the Fenland Family History Society went back to school at our July meeting, which found us lined up in front of our teacher, reading aloud from copies 16th and 17th century documents. Elizabeth Stazicker, Cambridgeshire Head of Heritage and County Archivist gave us full marks for effort before we broke up for the summer. We worked from five documents ranging in date from 1571 to 1691 and from a parish register to a petition from the people of Manea. Elizabeth showed us how to use sample alphabets and words already deciphered as reference points as well as explaining how to cope with non-standardised spelling. In an incredibly short time we had began to read more fluidly and were told that it was like riding a bike - once you have mastered it, you will always be able to do it but you may be a little wobbly if you haven't done it for some time. I had been looking forward to this workshop for some time and it fully lived up to my expectations. Everyone appeared to have as good a time as I did and can look forward to a summer break deciphering those old documents that have previously seemed impenetrable. Let the weather do it worst!

[Sue Paul]

24 October 2002

The Victorian Ag Lab, Barry Williams

At our October meeting members of the Fenland Family History Society were reminded by our speaker, Barry Williams, how the vast majority of our ancestors were humble agricultural labourers otherwise known as "ag. labs.". Barry is a teacher in Ramsey who has moonlighted, writing for the Family Tree Magazine. Despite all of us being familiar with ag. labs., they are not easy to define as each was a unique individual doing a range of different jobs. Most were multi-skilled. In 1851 1 in 9 were women. The average age at marriage for women, 28 years before Victorian times, came down to 21 or 22. The population grew but death rates were high - the life expectancy of an American slave was 4 years higher than an English ag. lab. Over the period of Victoria's reign, the conditions of the ag. lab. varied over time.

1830s to late 1840s

During this period farming was in a bad way due to the artificially high price of food due to the Corn Laws. Corn was the staple diet supplemented only by what ever animals could be kept and the Corn Laws kept the price of high. Although the ag. lab. was employed producing food, this was for sale and he had to by everything he needs, including the high priced food, from his wages. For the majority, life was not very nice. Although stockmen, shepherds, some general field hands and travelling ploughmen for part of the year were in regular employment, a high percentage were journeymen. That is, they were employed and paid on a daily basis we would today call casual employment and there was a great deal of discontent. People who owned land were better off than those who worked it but many would also have been described as ag. labs. And only the big farmers benefited.

Until the 1830s, threshing provided winter work and the winter wages were essential to see the ag. labs. and their families through the summer until the next harvest. Then the threshing machine was introduced. Change, progress and things getting better are not synonymous and the discontent turned to riots. The riots, named for the mythical Captain Swing, took place throughout the South and East Anglian.

Until 1834, the Parish made up any shortfall income below the poverty line. The Poor Law Amendment Act of that year meant that, if you could not support yourself, you were sent to the Workhouse. The Workhouse conditions were worse than those in Jail.

Late 1840s to mid-1870s

The Corn Laws were repealed in 1846 and the price of corn fell. The low price of food benefited the ag. lab. Most ag. labs. would have kept a pig which lived with the family. After harvest, everyone could glean, i.e. collect whatever was left in the fields after harvest. Fishing and shooting also provided food. However, Enclosure reached our area in the 1840s and Game Laws made the harvesting of game into poaching.

Late 1870s to 1890s

British agriculture went into major decline as refrigerated ship brought food and wool from New Zealand and US grain also started to arrive. Many ag. labs. were laid off. However, in Victorian times not many people left the countryside to work in the towns.

1890s to WWI

Things start to get better. Although there was some mechanisation, machines did not really take hold until after WWI. Food became cheaper and better transport (railways and the bicycle) meant that people started to leave the country for the towns where the wages were better. English fresh food, especially meat, became popular. After 1880s schooling was compulsory and people became better educated and their horizons broadened. It was not unusual to leave the family during the week and look for work up to 50 miles away.

[Sue Paul]

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