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Each issue is packed full of entertaining stories, case studies, social history articles and research advice – great for anyone starting out in family history research, for experienced researchers needing help overcoming stumbling blocks, and for those with a general interest in how our ancestors lived their lives.
I have been transcribing a wonderful set of records detailing official appointments and minor offences in Bedford in the 1650s. These were created by the court leet, and are a product of the manorial system of government that operated to a greater or lesser extent in England and Wales from the middle ages to the 20th century. These records are a treasure trove of information for family, local and social historians, and reveal much about town life in the 17th century.
To mark International Women’s Day this month, we are delving into the records to find a pioneering and talented woman who was ahead of her times. She was the granddaughter of a Jewish emigree innkeeper, who had fled to England to escape the Polish pogroms. Her father was a watchmaker and jeweller. Unfortunately his life was cut short and so left behind a large impoverished family in Portsmouth. Breaking the mould, she became a respected engineer, mathematician, physicist and inventor, as well as being a supporter of the suffragette movement.
A few years ago, I came across the name of an American singer and actress online, while researching my own theatrical family. I was intrigued by her and her apparent disappearance during the Edwardian era: from having frequent mentions in the press, suddenly there was nothing. There was no sign of her; not just no evidence of her still singing or acting, but no sign of her full stop. I could not find out where or when she had died – she simply vanished.
Samuel Smiles was a Victorian doctor, campaigner and writer who during his long life wrote 30 books and hundreds of articles which were all well received. His most famous and most controversial book was entitled Self-Help; with Illustrations of Conduct and Perseverance, which was published in 1859 and sold thousands of copies. Self-Help reflected the viewpoints and values that Smiles held dear and was in essence a blueprint for coping with life in the Victorian era, especially the adjustment to the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution. Smiles was fascinated by invention and progress and believed that by acquiring the right skills and adopting the right attitudes everyone could improve their position in life, including even the poor and most disadvantaged in society. He therefore believed in hard work, self-discipline, perseverance, education and thrift so that any individual could improve their moral and material standing
Early heavy-duty water-repellent materials included tarred canvas (tarpaulin), worn for example by seamen, and leather – traditionally used for vessels containing liquids. Oilskin (linen/cotton material impregnated with boiled linseed oil) was developed c.1810s, progressively replacing tarpaulin, while workers like railway platform staff, policemen and postmen received outdoor garments of heavy, densely woven woollen cloth and stout leather footwear. Yet there remained a growing need for fully waterproof fabrics.
The county of Wiltshire – named after its former county town of Wilton and in turn the River Wylye – was formed in Saxon times, although the huge number of prehistoric remains (most notably Avebury, Silbury Hill and Stonehenge) are testament to its far older settlement. The Normans’ Domesday Survey mentioned 40 hundreds, almost half of which remain barely altered today.
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