On 8 October, a Sunday, the people of Beverley were disturbed by the ominous sound of the town’s common bell. Some will have understood the meaning from previous ringings. Others will have recalled that, a few days earlier, they had seen the beacons fired on the southern horizon in nearby Lincolnshire, and will have connected the dots. Others still will have heard rumours of an uprising around Louth, and that 40,000 men were in arms to defend the churches of Lincolnshire.
With all the hard work and expense that collecting our precious family history documents can involve, to hope that they will still be readable and in great condition in years to come is not an unreasonable expectation. This is especially so if we have stored them in protective plastic sleeves. But watch out if you are relying on the standard pocket leaves, bought from your local high-street stationers. Simply popping our old photographs, or our ancestors’ documents, into an ordinary PVC sleeve could mean that we and future generations are going to be very disappointed when our valuable keepsakes are not preserved intact for the future. If I think back to when I first began my family tree, I can recall being allowed to photocopy some documents owned by a member of my extended family. I was shown a copy of a birth certificate from the GRO that had been stored in a basic shop-bought sleeve. The certificate had bonded with the toner on the page and transferred a black trace to the plastic which produced a ghosting effect around the words just as soon as the document moved. Acid, used in many of these standard sleeves, can also leach into the paper of our documents and make them brittle. Instead of preserving our certificates for posterity, the papers are subjected to the leaching of the plasticiser used in the manufacturing process of the sleeve.
We all enjoy a pinch of salt on our food, but for our ancestors salt was vital for making cheese and butter, and preserving meat and vegetables over the winter months. During the 19th century, salt also became important in the chemical industries, for example in alkali manufacture.
Patchwork was undertaken by women at all levels of British society from the earliest times. Just by looking at the fabrics, colours and design of an inherited quilt, cushion or item of clothing, you might be able to surmise something about the period and places in which your ancestor lived and her social status. But, if you are very lucky, there may also be a written record of the composition of your patchwork among family papers or in the archives – a letter, diary entry, newspaper article or published poem, for example – which could conceivably tell you a great deal more about your family history.
Recently I went to a newsagency and spotted a beautifully produced glossy genealogical magazine I had not seen before. It was Issue 4 of Discover your Ancestors. I bought it because on the front page was ‘Exclusive: Daniel Craig’s French forebear’. There were four pages dedicated to Daniel Craig’s ancestors. The first page was a whole page photograph of Daniel Craig. On the third page was a family tree (rather hard to read).
In the previous issue of the Periodical, we focused on wills proved at the Prerogative Courts of Canterbury and York, but there are many, many more wills – including some Irish, Scottish and American collections – to be explored among the online resources at The Genealogist (www.thegenealogist.co.uk). Among the indexes, mostly compiled from the British Record Society’s 19th century volumes, are many English wills up to 1858 that were not proven in either of the Prerogative Courts (usually reserved for those who owned a great deal of property and land over a large area, and those who died overseas) but in one of the 250 smaller courts around the country.
Having covered the history of sandals in the August Periodical, here we examine the more substantial footwear that developed in post-Roman Britain. Throughout the Anglo-Saxon era, leather shoes with closed-in round or oval toes were usual, 9th-century illustrations confirming the popularity of ankle-high shoes. The first record of a shoemaker (cordwainer) working in Northampton, Britain’s shoemaking capital, dates to 1202 and many medieval shoes have been excavated from European sites. Fashionable shoes were often laced at the sides and toes were long and pointed, the longer the point the higher the wearer’s status. During the late-1400s pointed toes were superseded by blunt toes and for the next century wide footwear was in vogue.
The publicity photographs show children smiling into the camera and waving from the decks of ocean liners bound for new homes thousands of miles away, but their subsequent stories tell of lonely, isolated and brutal childhoods that were a shattering consequence of Britain’s child migration schemes.
Liverpool was officially founded in the 13th century, but by the middle of the 16th century the population was still only around 500. In the 17th century there was slow progress in trade and population growth. Battles for the town were waged during the English Civil War, including an 18-day siege in 1644.
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