Often seated while others stand, the oldest family members in some photographs might be people who were actually only middle-aged. Without the benefit of modern cosmetics, 20th-century dental expertise and even hair dye, people in the past tended to look much older than they actually were and it is quite easy to mistake a 45-year-old for someone twenty years older.
We are all migrants. And it is astonishing how mobile our ancestors were. For example, at the end of the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago the British Isles were more or less unpopulated. Since then wave after wave of immigrants have colonised these islands. These include the hunter-gatherers from continental Europe shortly after the ice melted and the ground thawed, followed by Neolithic farmers, mercenary soldiers with the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Normans, Huguenots, Polish and Russian Jews escaping the pogroms of the Russian empire, refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe, Commonwealth immigrants and most recently EU immigrants.
Stretching back as far as the chronicles will take us, these island shores have been awash with an endless flow of ‘strangers’ born overseas, ‘friendly aliens’ for the most part. With few legal barriers to immigration before the 1905 Aliens Act, Britain became a haven for Huguenots fleeing persecution in 17thcentury France, for asylum-seeking Europeans during the 18th-century Revolutionary Wars, and for Jews escaping the 19th-century Russian pogroms.
The Pollentine in my family began as Pollington and is found as Pollingden, Ballentine, Pallemtime and Pollitino. Surnames sometimes change less obviously, like one Jane Dyer recorded in Australian death records as Jenny Droyer. Slight misspellings are more frequent; Phillip and Philips are often confused as are Mathews and Matthews, Murry and Murray, Marsland and Marland, and Reay and Rea.
TheGenealogist.co.uk has added records of more than 60,000 rail workers to its online indexes of Railway Employment Records. Taken from Railway Company Staff magazines, these records are useful to family historians with railway employee ancestors, and wanting to find important occupation-related dates and add some social history to their family tree.
The Battle of Waterloo, fought in Belgium on 18 June 1815, exactly 200 years ago, was completely deci sive, ending Napoleon’s hopes forever. Nine hours of bitter fighting set the course of europe and indeed the entire world for a century. However, it must be under stood that the battle does not stand alone: it was the culmination of a rapid campaign in Belgium but the allies still had to march to Paris to end Napoleon’s reign again.
The two main islands of New Zealand were first settled by Polynesians – whose Maori culture continues to be a distinct part of life – around seven centuries ago. It was 1642 before a European traveller, Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, reached its shores, and the 1760s when James Cook first circumnavigated and mapped the land.
Although the wearing of shorts (short trousers) in summer seems natural today, in the not so distant past it was not considered decent or desirable for women or men to reveal their legs in such brief garments. When men’s sports became more energetic in the 19th century, the demands of physical activity inspired the development of light, knee-length cotton drawers and these were common for events such as athletics by the late-Victorian era. By the early 1900s other sportsmen such as footballers and competitive cyclists were wearing drawers or shorts; during the 1910s, these grew shorter, rising to well above the knee. Old-fashioned ideas concerning the exposure of women’s legs prevailed for longer, although the munitionettes’ football teams formed during World War One adopted shorts of varying styles, some daring female players appearing very modern and masculine in their team kit.
The first evidence for Reading as a settlement dates from the 8th century. In late 870 an army of Danes set up camp at Reading. On 4 January 871, the first Battle of Reading took place, when an army led by King Ethelred and his brother Alfred the Great attempted unsuccessfully to breach the Danes’ defences.
The History & Heritage Handbook is a brand new guide to the huge range of heritage sites and organisations in the United Kingdom (plus the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man). It claims be the most comprehensive UK guide of its kind available, with almost 3500 places and organisations listed across more than 500 pages, thanks to a partnership with leading cultural events listing website Culture24.org.uk.
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