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A Night To Remember

Fri, 13/04/2018 - 11:14

On the  15th April 1912 an event occurred that shocked the world, played out in the early hours of the morning.  On her maiden voyage across the Atlantic the RMS Titanic of the White Star Line sank following a collision with an iceberg with a large loss of life amongst its passengers and crew

In this edition of the Surrey Historic Environment Record Blog we look at a memorial to a member of the Titanic’s crew. Situated in Godalming, The Phillips Memorial Cloister dedicated to John George (Jack) Phillips, Chief Wireless  Telegraphist Officer, RMS Titanic.

Painting of John George (Jack) Phillips by Ellis Martin from a photograph taken by Jennie Stedman of Farncombe. Godalming Museum and Godalming Town Council Collection ref B004.34

Jack was born in Godalming in 1887 and grew up within the town. Leaving school in 1902 he worked for the local post office as a Telegraphist,  where he learned morse code. Leaving this post in 1906, Jack joined the Marconi Company’s Wireless Telegraphy Training School. Upon completion of his course in August 1906 he joined the White Star Line as Junior Wireless Officer on the Teutonic. Over the next few years he would serve on a number of Ocean Liners as well as Marconi’s own land based transmitting stations (Godalming Museum 2012).

On the fateful night of the Titanic sinking, Jack and his assistant Harold Bride were transmitting personal messages within their roles with Marconi from the liner. Following the order from Captain Smith they were responsible for sending first the CQD message requesting assistant from any vessels within the area, followed by the fateful SOS once it was realised the Titanic was sinking.

Following the change to the SOS signal, Jack stayed at the transmitter, sending out the distress call and position of the Titanic. Both Jack and Harold stayed at their posts until Captain Smith gave the “every man for himself” order and personally thanked them both. Jack then sent Harold to save himself, whilst he stayed and continued transmitting. It was this act of bravery and devotion to duty which would cost him his life. Jack’s last message was received by the Virginia at 2:20am on the 15th April 1912.  (Godalming Museum 2012) It was at this time the Titanic slipped beneath the waves after entering her final moments and splitting in half.

The Phillips Memorial

Phillips Memorial Plaque
Photograph taken by A Dearlove

The Phillips Memorial Cloister on Borough Road opened on the 2nd anniversary of the sinking in 1914. Designed by H Thackeray Turner it consisted of an 80 ft square cloister with arcades and a central pond. The memorial has undergone alterations in c.1965 and 1986.  A Planting scheme for the memorial was created by Gertrude Jekyll which included her favourite iris Siberica, bergenias, hostas, iris, ferns and London pride. Sadly in 1990 the garden had fallen into disrepair but was restored in 1993 for the 150th anniversary of the birth of Jekyll. Today the memorial is part of the National Heritage List for England as a Grade II listed building and has two records on the HER: SHHER 3408 and 16655.

In association with the Philips memorial park adjacent to the site, this is the largest Titanic memorial by area in England. (Coltman 2017)

Phillips Memorial towards pond
Photograph Taken by A Dearlove

Phillips Memorial
Photograph Taken by A Dearlove



Godalming Museum 2012 http://www.godalmingmuseum.org.uk/index.php?page=jack-phillips-and-the-titanic accessed 13/04/2018

Richard Coltman 2017 Philips Memorial Park  http://www.titanicmemorials.co.uk/post/memorial/phillips+memorial+park+godalming/ accessed 13/04/2018

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New and Exciting Acquisitions!

Fri, 13/04/2018 - 10:30

Just a quick word to advise on some new acquisitions in the last couple of months.

Fetcham Church 1822 SHC Ref 4348/2/97/3

On the parish front, we have taken in some more parish registers from Ottershaw, Headley (Hampshire), Shalford, Fetcham, Merton, and Nork.  We’ve also acquired Nonconformist records from Wey Valley and Kingston upon Thames Methodist Circuits and we also now hold further parish records for St Mary’s, Fetcham, including PCC minutes.

Parish magazines can be a wonderful resource for the family historian and you might like to explore the parish magazines for St Nicholas’ church, Godstone, 1867-1966 or browse the service registers for St Stephen’s church, Godstone and St John the Evangelist, Blindley Heath.

We have been given some papers belonging to Richard Lucock Wilson of West End, Woking which include diaries, books, maps, papers and photographs (c.1915-2017).  We have also acquired copies of records for the Duffell and Chandler families of Rowledge including photographs of family members including at Wood Cottage and Yew Cottage, Rowledge, and other locations around the village, 1893-1969 along with family members’ graves, nd [2018] and family history research papers, 2018.

We also received hospital records relating to Farnham Isolation Hospital, St Luke’s Hospital for the Clergy and Brookwood

Military records include papers belonging to Private William Worsfold Banks (1887-1943), of the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment; a photograph of the Machine Gun Section of 2/21st London Regiment (First Surrey Rifles), 1914, and a letter relating to Private Ralph Henry Bennett, 7th Battalion, Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, 1918.

LGBT additions from Outline and GIRES were placed with us, as were records for a number of residents associations, and local interest charities.

We have less film deposited with is these days so it was great to receive archive film footage of War Weapons Week, Dorking, 1941.

Finally, we received a fascinating collection relation to Jewish Polish refugee Edward Henrik Hartry and his wife

Teresa Krystyna Hartry, architects of Woking, who built their house, ‘Pipidowek’, in Maybury.

These records form just part of our wonderful collections and you can access our catalogue from our website.  If you think you might like to deposit any records with us for safety, either temporarily or permanently, do visit the page on our website for Donating and Loaning to Surrey History Centre.

Happy Researching!





PS:  I know I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, keep checking to see what the family history sites have added to their collections (ie, Ancestry.com, FindMyPast etc).  They add and update their records regularly and don’t forget, you have FREE access to both Ancestry and FindMy Past here at Surrey History Centre, along with so much more!




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Netting a Good Catch!

Fri, 30/03/2018 - 00:02

I’m a great believer in always checking original sources and never relying on transcripts or indexes.  However, just occasionally I found that it is better to let an expert in on the act.  This came home to me recently when I was researching some of my Lincolnshire fishing ancestors.

Now, as someone who feels slightly queasy going over Waterloo Bridge I should explain that I know next to nothing about anything nautical.  Also, with the exception of deciding whether to have tartare sauce or ketchup with my fish and chips, I have never really had to think much about the fishing industry and the administration behind same.

I discovered through newspapers that my Great Grandfather was the skipper on a trawler which sailed out of Grimsby.  From Simon Will’s book Tracing Your Seafaring Ancestors (ISBN: 9781473834330. RRP £14.99, paperback. Pen & Sword Family History) I learned about how to look at Master’s Tickets and how to apply for records relating to his fishing career.

My Great Grandfather was a bit of a family aberration since his father was not a fisherman and although one of his sons went into the fish trade, as far as I can tell, none of his children made it their career.  Since he was very much a ‘one off’ I decided that instead of going to North East Lincolnshire Record Office in Grimsby, where the records were held, I would pay for some research to be conducted by one of the staff there.  Compared with the cost of travelling to Grimsby and staying overnight, etc, their fee of £25.70 for an hour’s research seemed pretty reasonable.  Oh was I glad I did this!

Am I the only family historian who, from time to time, has been presented with a document which made absolutely no sense at all?  I hope not!!  Fishing records are fascinating IF (and note the capital letters!) you can understand them.  There may well be fisher folk out there who understand all the terms used to describe the various jobs undertaken aboard a trawler.   There may also be people who can untangle the Byzantine formulas for sharing out the catches and apportioning payment, and I suspect that there are people out there who know the difference between a wrass and a gurnard, and can judge the importance of a smelt over a pilchard, but  sadly I’m not one of these elite.

However, the lovely staff at the Record Office not only made copies of the documents but also explained everything for me, suggested some further reading to expand my knowledge and also answered the puzzling question of why my great-grandfather and his family de-camped to Holland for a year or so (big strike among the fishing community in Grimsby – see Rod Collin’s online article about the Grimsby Riot of 1901 at http://www.rodcollins.com/wordpress/the-grimsby-riot-of-1901-history-images if you are interested) and so much more.

Sometimes it is good to let the experts conduct research on your behalf, particularly if you are going to be spending a huge sum of money on visiting an archive at the other end of the country.  Also, while there are plenty of independent researchers who are expertly qualified to conduct research, it is always worth approaching the relevant archive first as they often have their own ‘in house’ research service, just as we have here at the History Centre.  The advantage of using an archive research service is that the staff tend to know their holdings very well, and can be quicker at extracting information than someone less experienced with that particular collection.  In addition, there are no travel on-costs and if the archive concerned is like us, they have a vast amount of ‘local knowledge’ which is invaluable.

So, I’m going back to my Grimsby records now and I’ll let you know if I find anything fishy about my ancestors! (Groans).

Happy Researching – and Happy Easter!





PS:  On the subject of our Research Service, did you know you can buy gift vouchers for research at Surrey History Centre?  Nice present for a genealogist!


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Celebrating Dame Ethel Smyth

Thu, 29/03/2018 - 17:00

Ethel Smyth, 1913 (SHC ref 9180/9/2/17)

An accomplished composer, militant suffragette and avid golfer – Dame Ethel Smyth, DBE, DMus (1858-1944) is one of those characters in history who never fails to intrigue us. She lived in Surrey for most of her life – firstly at the family home ‘Frimhurst’ in Frimley Green, and finally at ‘Coign’ (now renamed Brettanby Cottage) at Hook Heath in Woking. After meeting Emmeline Pankhurst, Ethel put her successful career as a composer on hold for two years to dedicate herself full-time to the suffragette cause. She composed the suffragette anthem, The March of the Women (adopted as our project title), and is said to have practiced throwing stones on Woking Golf Course in preparation for the window-smashing campaign. There is a popular anecdote that when imprisoned in Holloway for a window smashing incident, she conducted her fellow prisoners through her cell window with a toothbrush, as they marched around the exercise compound singing The March of the Women!

The Suffragette, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) publication edited by Christabel Pankhurst, remarks of Ethel’s work: ‘this music is brave music. In this its strength lies. It would rouse rebellion in a sheep’ (The Suffragette, Friday 27 June 1913, p. 612, British Newspaper Archive).

Woking Choral Society marching in Woking town centre, 26th April 2008

My first talk for the project was delivered to the Woking branch of Soroptimist International, at Gorse Hill Conference Centre, a stone’s throw (no pun intended!) from Woking Golf Club and Ethel’s former residence. At this meeting I was delighted to meet a member of Woking Choral Society (WCS). Ten years ago next month, on 26th April 2008, Woking Choral Society marched through Woking town centre, where celebrations were held for the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ethel Smyth. The group sang The March of the Women, conducted with a toothbrush in honour of Ethel!

Here at Surrey History Centre we hold the records of the Woking Choral Society (WCS). ‘Tutti’ the Society’s newsletter reads ‘On Saturday 26 April the ladies will march and sing; maybe the men will come and cheer us on’ (Spring 2008, SHC ref. 8890/6/3). You can look back on the celebrations that took place here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/surrey/7370044.stm.

The March of the Women music score, c.1911 Lewis Orchard Collection (SHC ref. 9180/5)

It is particularly fitting that Woking Choral Society (founded in 1896) should have chosen to commemorate Ethel Smyth in this way as she guest-conducted WCS in a concert of her own works in 1922. Next month we will be able to celebrate the 160th anniversary of Ethel’s birth in the centenary year of some women gaining the right to vote.

Surrey History Centre also holds the research papers of Ethel Smyth expert, Lewis Orchard, which cover many areas of her life and works (SHC ref. 9180). Lewis is volunteering with our project and is now working on her suffrage memoirs and the Smyth family tree. His papers include the front cover of The March of the Women music score. A number of the pupils who took part in our school workshops in the early phase of the project were learning to read music at the time and they enjoyed having a go at singing along to this undeniably catchy marching anthem!

Recently, we have kindly been sent copies of Ethel Smyth’s correspondence held in the archives of University of St Andrew’s. Ethel received an honorary degree from St Andrew’s in June 1928, and in the visitor book, which survives in the archive, she signed her name with a bar of music from The March of the Women. Of all the musical compositions that she could have chosen to illustrate her signature it speaks volumes that she chose to use this one. You can read more about this, with accompanying pictures, on the St Andrew’s blog about Ethel written in celebration of International Women’s Day: https://standrewsrarebooks.wordpress.com/2018/03/08/international-womens-day-dame-ethel-mary-smyth/.

A poster for ‘Ethel Smyth: Grasp the Nettle’, a play at Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking, 11th March 2018

Today, Woking continues to celebrate its famous former resident and this centenary year has seen a number of focused events. Earlier this month, Ethel was the subject of a play called ‘Grasp the Nettle’ at the Rhona McGraw theatre in Woking, and we enjoyed a fantastic talk at The Lightbox by Dr Chris Wiley of the University of Surrey which gave us an insight into her achievements as a female composer.

Ethel is someone who continually attracts interest and fascination as a pioneering woman of her time, and yet at the same time, she doesn’t quite have the public attention she deserves – I’m told that contestants on a recent episode of University Challenge were stumped when presented with a picture of Ethel. But the tide is turning as interest in this extraordinary woman reawakens -enabled by this centenary year. In February, we celebrated Ethel at our LGBT coffee evening, in celebration of LGBT history month. Her eventful life, including her love for Emmeline Pankhurst and, later, Virginia Woolf, continues to intrigue and inspire, and leaves us wanting to know more. Later this year Celebrate Woking’s Party in the Park event on 7th July will celebrate Ethel Smyth and we will be there to share our project, with craft activities to introduce young learners to a local heroine. We hope to see you there – and don’t forget your toothbrush!


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How did that get here? A forgotten folder of notes on the history of Shepperton

Thu, 22/03/2018 - 15:02

We hold a lot of published and unpublished material at our main Historic Environment Record (HER) office space in Surrey County Hall, from 19th-century archaeological journals through to newly-published books and all sorts more besides. Lately, we’ve been sorting through and reorganising our bookshelves, and in the process have made a remarkable (re)discovery. It may not look like much from the outside…

(Image copyright Surrey HER/Rob Briggs)

…but inside the folder is a wealth of notes about the history of Shepperton, as well as nearby places like Sunbury, Walton-on-Thames, and Lower and Upper Halliford. The contents are a mix of notes typed using a typewriter and ones written by hand. There are also hand-drawn maps (some partly coloured-in with paints), black and white photographs of buildings and other significant structures in the Shepperton area, and even some charming ink drawings of how local people may have dressed in the Middle Ages.

(All three images copyright Surrey HER/Rob Briggs)

Who do we have to thank for this?

We have no idea how the folder came to be lodged with the HER, but the very first page does provide some important clues about who wrote the notes. A short paragraph announces; ‘All the information comes from T. Fitzhugh, Esq, […] Past President of the S.S.L.H.S. together with research additions by the Editor’, and is followed by the date October 1966. The editor’s name, A. J. Hutchings, appears at the bottom of the page. In between is a handwritten addition noting that ‘Unless otherwise stated all photographs were taken in Shepperton during October 1966’.

The road system of Shepperton, drawn on tracing paper so it can be placed over the map of the rivers and streams of the locality (Image copyright Surrey HER/Rob Briggs)

We had two names and a date to work on, but not a lot else. The SSLHS is Sunbury and Shepperton Local History Society, so in our hunt for more information we got in contact with the Society, which was kind enough to shed some light on the authors. ‘T. Fitzhugh, Esq’ was Terrick V. H. Fitzhugh, a film producer by trade but genealogist and historian by inclination. He founded the journal The Amateur Historian (now named The Local Historian) and wrote a number of books about genealogy, including a two-volume study of the Fitzhugh family that traces its origins back to the early 13th century. Less is known about A. J. Hutchings, beyond the facts that he was better known as Tony Hutchings and was a founder-member of the SSLHS. He is also reported to have held a particular interest in the archaeology of the local area, playing a role in the excavations at what is now Saxon Primary School in Shepperton (SHER 2284, 2285).

The first page of the script of, or notes made from, Fitzhugh’s lecture (Image copyright Surrey HER/Rob Briggs)

Much of the front of the folder is taken up with a typescript based on a lecture by Fitzhugh entitled ‘Notes on the history of Shepperton’ (hence the title of the folder), followed by an even greater number of pages of rougher notes forming a series of Appendices that provide more detailed or background information about many of the places and events mentioned in the lecture notes. Some of the other contents date from as late as 1972, showing the folder was an ongoing project for a number of years. Altogether it represents an extraordinary amount of research (and time spent sat at a typewriter!), but in a format that does not seem like it was ever intended to be published as a book. This makes using this blog to make more people aware of its existence feel all the more rewarding.

The King’s Head pub on Church Square, Shepperton – note the sign advertising “Good food till Midnight”! (Image copyright Surrey HER/Rob Briggs)

The folder contains so many wonderful things that we could dedicate several blog posts to exploring their significance. But we’ll limit ourselves here to picking out a few highlights from the notes, accompanied by links to relevant HER entries.

Lost (or almost lost) buildings

Thanks to the annotation on the very first page, we can be certain that the bulk of the many black and white photographs affixed to the pages were taken in the Autumn of 1966. One photograph that stands out given this date is of Mount Felix, a mansion designed in the early 1830s by architect Charles Barry (interestingly, at the same time as his competition-winning design for the rebuilt Palace of Westminster). It replaced an earlier house, one that the accompanying note records was purchased by Samuel Dicker, the wealthy owner of a Jamaican plantation, in 1740.

A post-fire, pre-demolition view of Mount Felix from the Thames (Image copyright Surrey HER/Rob Briggs)

Mount Felix was badly damaged in a fire in 1966, leading to the majority of the structure being demolished the following year (a few remnants of the house and grounds survive, notably the Grade II-listed clock tower and stable block (SHER 7440)). If you look closely at the roof of the house in the photograph above, you can see the charred rafters, confirming that it was taken after the fire. It may very well be one of the last images of Mount Felix mansion captured before it was pulled down.

The old Shepperton station building (Image copyright Surrey HER/Rob Briggs)

Another photograph shows the front of the old Shepperton railway station building, long since demolished and replaced by the present part-station, part-office block. A similar fate almost befell Winches Cottage, a partly 16th-century house on Church Road in Shepperton. The notes record how the building, then split into at least two cottages, had been ‘in danger of demolition’ a few years before 1966. They were given a temporary reprieve, but Fitzhugh reported in his lecture that ‘the cost of upkeep is such that they once again are threatened’. Fortunately, owners with the money to invest in the necessary repairs materialised and because of them the cottage, a Grade II-listed building, stands to this day near the centre of the historic village (SHER 10680).

An ancient wooden canoe from the Thames 

Throughout the folder, and especially in the appendices and loose notes towards its rear, much older archaeological discoveries are documented. Especially eye-catching are newspaper cuttings record the discovery of a wooden canoe in the River Thames at Sunbury Weir. There is nothing on the HER pertaining to this remarkable find, so the newspaper coverage had us both stumped and intrigued!

Cutting from an unknown newspaper printed in 1966 shortly after the discovery of the wooden canoe at Sunbury Weir (Image copyright Surrey HER/Rob Briggs)

Having now done a bit of research into the matter, it turns out the canoe survives, and is on display in the River and Rowing Museum at Marlow. There is a photograph of the canoe and its finders on the Museum’s website, which also confirms the discovery was made in 1966, and reveals that analysis has dated it to the Anglo-Saxon period about 1500 years ago (according to one of the cuttings, the vessel was initially thought to be over 2000 years old, which would have made it Iron Age in date). The Sunbury Weir canoe shows the Thames has been used as a route for travel by people using boats for well over a millennium, and was almost certainly used in the same way for millennia before. Needless to say, we’ll be adding a record about the canoe to the HER as soon as possible!

A medieval church in the river?

At the centre of historic Shepperton is Church Square, named of course after St Nicholas’ Church at its far end (SHER 10694). It might be thought that, like many parish churches in Surrey, it has occupied this spot since the Middle Ages, but local legend and at least one chance discovery have raised the possibility of an alternative story.

Two views of Shepperton from the Thames, captured 216 years apart (Image copyright Surrey HER/Rob Briggs)

Appendix 11 of the folder contains a series of transcriptions of various opinions offered over the years about the possibility that the first church at Shepperton was at least partly raised on piles over the Thames, and was only established on its present site in 1614 after the earlier church had been washed away in a flood. According to many of the older accounts quoted, some of the debris from the destroyed building was used in the construction of its replacement, but the foundations remained on the river bed, where it was reported that in days gone by they would even ‘obstruct the river steamers when the water is unduly low’ (SHER 551)! Because of these associations, when a small leaden vessel was found in the same stretch of the Thames, it was duly interpreted (perhaps optimistically) as a relic holder from the high altar of the lost church (SHER 2393).

The name Churchyard Ait is first recorded in the 19th century. Its site lies well away from the present churchyard, but in the vicinity of the supposed site of Shepperton’s first church (Image copyright Surrey HER/Rob Briggs)

The final opinion quoted in the Appendix is that of J. Lindsay, Esq. of Shepperton Manor House, dated April 1963. He was a lot less positive about the credibility of the story, saying it ‘should be treated with reserve’. Lindsay drew attention to clear signs of medieval (pre-1614) masonry in the existing church, and how the local legend of a church over/in the river was ‘not uncommon in the Thames Valley’, with another instance being found just across the river in Walton-on-Thames. So maybe there was no lost church above the river at Shepperton after all – but it’s a great story nonetheless.

The Lindsays of Shepperton Manor House

The notes tell us that J. Lindsay bought the Manor House at Shepperton (SHER 10681) in the early 1960s, and by 1965 had demolished all but the oldest, early 19th-century portions of it. Seemingly, this was in preparation to putting it up for sale; the notes record the Manor House was on the market priced at £100,000 in 1966 (when that sum of money bought a lot more property than it does today!). But he was not the first member of the Lindsay family to own the Manor House. In 1856, the house had been purchased by William Schaw Lindsay, who owned it until his death there in 1877. W. S. Lindsay had an eventful life: an orphan at 10, he ran away to sea five years later, and became a captain at 20. He later became wealthy as a result of setting up his own shipping company, and served as a Liberal MP between 1854 and 1864.

The Manor House at Shepperton viewed from the Thames (Image copyright Surrey HER/Rob Briggs)

As lord of the manor of Shepperton, W. S. Lindsay was also behind what the notes describe as ‘a nocturnal drama on the night of 24th January 1860’. Shepperton War Memorial Cross stands next to the site of the village ‘jail’ and stocks, both of which were in a severe state of disrepair by 1860. Lindsay wished to remove them, but was unable to do so officially as they were the responsibility of the Shepperton Vestry (parish council). But he was not to be dissuaded, and took matters into his own hands. In the dead of night, he directed some of his servants to pull down the ‘jail’ building, who, having done just that, ‘paved the muddy road with the bricks thereof and made off before the cock-crow’! The Vestry could do nothing more than write a sternly-worded letter to Lindsay, who responded in kind a day later, but no further action was taken after that and consequently nothing remains to be seen of the Shepperton village ‘jail’.

Shepperton War Memorial Cross, site of the ‘village jail’ until one fateful night in 1860… (Image copyright Surrey HER/Rob Briggs)

The future of the folder

The folder will continue to be kept at the HER in Kingston for the foreseeable future, so if reading the above has made you want to come and have a look at it (or anything else in our library here) please contact us via email at her@surreycc.gov.uk to arrange a date and time.

Many thanks to Nick Pollard and Sheila Montague of Sunbury and Shepperton Local History Society for providing information about A. J. Hutchings and T. Fitzhugh.

For more information about the history and archaeology of Shepperton, why not look at its dedicated page on Exploring Surrey’s Past – there’s even a link to the search results of all Shepperton-related records in the various collections.

Detailed historical information about Shepperton, from the Victoria History of the County of Middlesex (published before 1965 when Shepperton and the rest of what became Spelthorne borough was transferred to Surrey), is also available for free via the British History Online website.

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Different Sites for Different Folks!

Fri, 09/03/2018 - 00:02

1891 Census – Guildford. RG12; Piece: 560; Folio: 54; Page: 31. Reproduced with kind permission by Ancestry.co.uk

I was chatting to a friend at the weekend (someone as obsessed with family as I am, if that’s possible!) and we were celebrating the fact that she had found some information on a rather elusive ancestor.

She had first started researching this particular chap over 10 years ago, but with little success. She had the odd rummage around to try and find more about him but the odds were against him until she recently noticed some new records which had been added to the Find My Past website. On a hunch, she typed in his name and, to cut a long story short, found a set of records which gave her a huge amount of information and answered several queries she had about his family. This definitely deserved a celebratory cup of coffee and a custard cream!

I think this highlights two very important aspects of family history research:

1) Never give up the search!
2) Remember that all the genealogical websites are constantly updating their sites and adding new sets of records.

England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1857. Reproduced by kind permission from Ancestry.co.uk

People often ask me “which is the best to subscribe to, Ancestry.com or Find My Past or The Genealogist?”. Well, they are all good and while they share some sets of records (eg, the census, the BMD indexes, etc) they also have different sets of records. For example, Ancestry.com has Surrey and Dorset parish registers (among others) but Find My Past has Welsh parish registers and the 1939 Register. The Genealogist has the tithe maps and various sets of wills that the others don’t have.

However, even the records that are shared can vary. For example, take the census. Ancestry.com and Find My Past use different sets of indexes, so you might well find that someone has transcribed something one way on Ancestry and another way on Find My Past. If you can, it’s well worth searching on both to try and find a missing ancestor.

Also, don’t just use the indexes (and we’ve talked about this before!). If you can browse through a set of records, do so. You may find other family members while you do!

If you subscribe to Ancestry or Find My Past, they will send you regular updates on what they have just released. Now, obviously, they are commercial companies and will be trying to ‘sell’ their product so they can ‘over-egg’ the pudding from time to time in but nevertheless, these updates are useful as they remind us of all their new accessions and indexes. Incidentally, it is worth scrolling down the pages of the various collections on these sites and reading the small print. These should tell you exactly what is included in the collection and, more importantly, what is not!

Edinburgh City Archives; Edinburgh, Scotland; Register of Voters for the City of Edinburgh and the Burgh of Leith; Reference: SL56/16. Reproduced with kind permission by Ancestry.co.uk

Ancestry.com have just announced a ‘latest addition’ to their database which are Scottish electoral registers. They are not for the whole of Scotland but cover quite a few large areas and include Edinburgh and Glasgow. Now, as anyone with Scottish ancestors will tell you, most of the records relating to Scotland can be found on the excellent Scotland’s People website. However, this is not a subscription site and you pay for each document you want to see. If you already have a subscription to Ancestry.com (and remember it’s free to use here at the Surrey History Centre) this is a very useful addition to your armoury of Scottish resources.

So keep checking to see what’s new on these sites – you might find some pleasant surprises.

Happy researching!

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Surrey women in local government 100 years later

Mon, 19/02/2018 - 16:32

6th February 2018 marked the centenary of the Representation of the People Act being passed which first gave women of property, over the age of 30, the right to vote in national elections.

Project Archivist Rosie at the Houses of Parliament

To mark this important anniversary and to launch the Vote 100 programme, Rosie, our Project Archivist was invited to the Houses of Parliament to join current and former female MPs, along with representatives from projects and initiatives taking place all over the country. Speakers at the reception included the Prime Minister, Theresa May MP, and Jordhi Nullatamby, Member of the Youth Parliament for Thurrock, who spoke of the role of women in government. You can read the Vote 100 blog post about women in government at: https://ukvote100.org/2017/11/07/1957-a-glass-ceiling-shattered/.

21st November 2018 will also be the centenary of the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918, which first allowed women to stand for election to the House of Commons. The first woman to be elected MP for a constituency within the county of Surrey was Virginia Bottomley (Conservative) to South West Surrey in 1984. Since then Sue Doughty (Liberal Democrats) was elected to the Guildford constituency in 2001 and Anne Milton (Conservative) also elected to Guildford in 2005. The first woman to be elected to a constituency falling within the historic county, though in London at the time of the election, was Mrs Nancy Runge (Conservative) to Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, in 1931. Labour MPs for seats within the historic county (though, again, in London when the election took place) included Mrs Freda Corbet, Camberwell North West, in 1945; Mrs Caroline Ganley, Battersea, also 1945; Mrs Margaret Mackay, Wandsworth, Clapham, in 1964; and Harriet Harman, Peckham, in 1982. A full list of women Members of Parliament can be found at: http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN06652/SN06652.pdf.

Extract from Kirkintilloch Herald, 2 May 1888, reporting on female Poor Law Guardians, British Newspaper Archive

Some women were permitted to vote in local government elections long before they won the right to vote in national elections, hence their appearance in electoral registers prior to 1918. Single and widowed rate-paying (local tax paying) women were allowed to vote for town councils in 1869 and by 1907 women were able to participate in all aspects of local government. By the end of the nineteenth century, women were also able to serve on School Boards and the Poor Law Boards of Guardians (which managed the workhouses).

As part of the March of the Women project, we will be tracking women who served on local boards and committees in Surrey from both sides of the women’s suffrage debate. One of our volunteers is already hot on the case researching this. An example we have come across so far is Miss Foster Newton, who was a Poor Law Guardian for Richmond from 1888 to 1920, and who we also know supported the campaign for women’s suffrage.

Today within Surrey County Council, of the 81 members 29 are women, representing just over 35% of the council. This is similar to the Council’s Cabinet where 40% are female. This photograph shows Peter Martin, Chairman of Surrey County Council, with some of the 29 female members of the council, taken on 6th February 2018 to mark the centenary of the first women getting the vote.

Peter Martin, Chairman of Surrey County Council, with some of the 29 female members of the council

Project news

You can now follow the project on Twitter at @MarchoftheWomen – find out all the latest news!

A Cup of LGBT History, 22nd February 2018 6.30pm – 9pm, Surrey History Centre

We are fast approaching the LGBT History coffee evening, here at Surrey History Centre on 22nd February 6.30pm – 9pm, where our March of the Women project will have a stand. All are welcome to this event and no booking is required. More information can be found at: http://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/lgbt-history-month-2018/.

There’s still time to book a place for ‘Hearts and Minds: the Untold Story of the Great Pilgrimage and How Women Won the Vote’, a talk by Jane Robinson at Surrey History Centre on 24th March, 11am – 12.30pm. Places are free and can be booked on our website at: https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/heritage-culture-and-recreation/archives-and-history/surrey-history-centre/heritage-events.

Save the date for our ‘Surrey, Suffrage and the Arts: Past & Present’ event, Sat 19th May at Surrey History Centre, with Dr Lucy Ella Rose speaking about Mary Watts and her suffrage and arts circle in Surrey and beyond, and local artist Mary Branson, will be revealing the story behind her beautiful art installation window, ‘New Dawn‘, at the House of Parliament. More details coming soon!

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Scandal and Gossip!

Fri, 09/02/2018 - 00:02

I’ve been indexing some workhouse records recently and I came across something interesting in the Dorking Union birth register (SHC Reference BG2/37/1).

An illegitimate child was born to an Eliza Sawyers on 10 November 1844. The child was named James Fryday [sic] Sawyers and was baptised in Dorking Church on 8th December 1844. In that typical, non-pc way that was common at the time, the baptism register for St Martin’s, Dorking confirms that James Friday Sawyers was baptised on this day and comments that the child was ‘baseborn’. However, of interest to me was another baptism on the same day, of an Alfred Friday, born to Daniel and Mary Ann Friday. Was there a connection? If so, how did Mrs Friday feel about someone brazenly baptising a child on the same day with the family name usefully inserted in the child’s given names?

The acknowledgement of a father on either a baptism or birth certificate for an illegitimate child was difficult. If the putative father was reluctant to have any connection with his child, in some cases the mother was not averse to using the father’s surname as an extra name for the child. Has anyone else found an example of this?

Occasionally, if you have a vicar who believes in recording the facts, you get some intriguing little comments in the baptism register. I found an entry in the baptism records for All Saints, Headley [although in Hampshire, the parish of Headley lies within the diocese of Guildford, which is why we hold the records here at Surrey History Centre] which records the baptism of Annie Kate Holden on 5 August 1876. She was the daughter of Mary Holden but in very small letters there is the entry “Harry Warner”. There was a Henry Warner living in Headley on the 1871 census, aged 16. Hmmm!!

The Reverend W H Laverty who was incumbent of All Saints, Headley, was a fascinating man with a passion for knowing the ins and outs of all the relationships of his parishioners. He kept detailed notebooks containing information, family pedigrees and snippets of gossip which forms the stuff of genealogical dreams. These notebooks have been transcribed and you can find more about his life (and his notebooks!) on John Owen Smith’s wonderful Headley website at http://www.johnowensmith.co.uk/headley/laverty.htm.

He notes on one baptism entry, for Randle Jackson Waters, that he is the 7 year old son of Elizabeth Hack “…married to George Coombes 5/10/73”. Intrigued I went to John’s website (above) and found the transcribed entry which states that [Elizabeth] “Had a child by a former curate of Headley, whom she calls after the curate”.  Well if that’s not a story worth researching, I don’t know what is!

I think we’ve discussed before the importance of actually seeing the original entries in church registers as Laverty was not the only vicar to add marginal notes and comments. Vicars sometimes give a cause of death in burial registers (although these can be a little vague; Laverty refers to someone dying of ‘the leg’ in one of his entries) or give the dates of birth in baptism registers. These notes are rarely transcribed and can be valuable additions to our family history research.

Happy Researching!





PS: Speaking of civil registration (!) it would seem that legislation is being put through to include the names of both parents on a marriage certificate so that the mother’s name will be given as well as the father’s. Scotland and Northern Ireland have already instituted this (in the case of Scotland since 1855!) but wouldn’t it be wonderful if ministers could push this bill through for England and Wales in 2018 – in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage?!

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Sites of Suffragette history in the Surrey Historic Environment Record

Tue, 06/02/2018 - 17:46

To mark the centenary of the passing of The Representation of the People Act on 6th February 1918, by which some British women received the right to vote for the first time, this blog post takes a look at some of the buildings in Surrey that are entered in the Historic Environment Record and still survive as witnesses to an extraordinary period of British political history. It has been inspired by the wealth of magnificent research done in recent years on the Women’s Suffrage movement in Surrey, especially for the Suffragettes in Surrey theme of Exploring Surrey’s Past and through the March of the Women: Surrey’s Road to the Vote project (which has a series of blog posts listed here). In turn, we hope this might inspire people to visit some of these buildings in question, or to look at the ones with which they are already familiar in a new light.

Royal Holloway College, Englefield Green (photograph copyright Alex Egginton)

The first meeting of the Women’s Suffrage movement in Surrey reportedly was held at Guildford in 1871, and over the following years branches of the various Suffrage societies began to be established in towns and villages around the county. Royal Holloway College in Englefield Green (SHER 10369) was home to a branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) set up in 1909. Around the same time, Mary Watts, famed as an artist and architect of the Watts Memorial Chapel in Compton (SHER 8193), was serving president of the NUWSS Godalming branch.

Godalming’s early Suffragette history is not a very happy one. An article entitled “Suffragettes on Tour, with Lively times at Godalming” printed in The Surrey Advertiser in May 1908 detailed the disruption of a Suffragette meeting held in Thorns Restaurant, at 14 Church Street (SHER 11869). Those present had to escape through the back door of the venue and into the garden of neighbouring Deanery House over a high wall (SHER 11870). Then, having made their way to Godalming Railway Station (SHER 340913217), the group was ordered out and instead sought shelter for an hour in the Police Station (located at the time on Bridge Road, on a site now occupied by Godalming Fire Station).

Watts Memorial Chapel, Compton, designed by Mary Watts, the first president of the Godalming branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (photograph copyright Andrew Dearlove)

The Suffragette movement was not limited to the major settlements of late-19th and early 20th century Surrey. Deep in the Surrey countryside, grand country houses as well as smaller cottages were home to some of the key figures in the Women’s Suffrage movement. Broome Hall at Coldharbour beneath Leith Hill (SHER 9079, 18411) was the residence of Suffrage activist Margaret Pennington – a passionate advocate for cycling as a means for women’s emancipation – and her husband Frederick, a Liberal MP. Not so far away at Holmwood is The Dutch House, formerly named The Mascot (SHER 9114). In the early 20th century, it was owned by two other prominent supporters of the movement, Emmeline and Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, and became, among other things, a place where formerly incarcerated and hunger-striking Suffragettes were able to regain their health.

The single most famous Suffragette action to take place in Surrey happened on 4th June 1913, when Emily Wilding Davison threw herself under the King’s horse, Anmer, during the Derby race at Epsom Downs racecourse. The Prince’s Stand, built in 1879, survives from the racecourse of that day (SHER 7857). Earlier in 1913, a large house in Walton-on-the-Hill known as Pinfold (SHER 9948) had sustained lasting damage in a bomb explosion; it was targeted because it was the home of the-then Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George. Just over a year later, St Margaret’s Church, Chipstead (SHER 950) was less severely damaged in a fire that was possibly another act of Suffragette militancy, happening at a time when churches were being targeted through the setting of fires and even bombs.

Emily Wilding Davison died of her injuries in Epsom Cottage Hospital on Alexandra Road, which remains in use as a healthcare facility. Other buildings have not been so fortunate and have succumbed to demolition – for example, the former Leatherhead Police Station, where Emmeline Pankhurst was detained in the Inspector’s sitting room following her arrest in connection with the bombing of David Lloyd George’s house. Other buildings, such as Reigate Public Hall on the south side of the High Street, where one of the first Suffragette meetings held in Surrey took place in 1883, were razed decades before. The documentary record of Surrey’s Suffragette history is rich and much of it is cared for in public archives, but the buildings and spaces in which many of its key moments took place are often underappreciated and vulnerable as a result. It is vital, therefore, that the Surrey Historic Environment Record continues to expand its number of entries for sites with Suffragette associations to reflect this important part of the county’s more recent history.

For further information about the topic, this page has links to many online and printed sources relevant to Surrey’s Suffragette history.


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LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) History Month 2018

Mon, 29/01/2018 - 23:00

LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) History Month takes place every year in February and celebrates the lives and achievements of the LGBT community. This is an opportunity to learn more about the histories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in Surrey and elsewhere.

This year Surrey Heritage has again teamed up with Outline, Surrey Libraries, and the University of Surrey to bring you a range of themed events. Here’s what is happening:

Click on the image to see and download a pdf copy of the poster.

Running Wild: the lives of Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney

At Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, GU21 6ND

Free display in foyer from Thursday 1 February to Wednesday 28 February free display during normal opening hours.

Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney made a unique contribution to popular culture in the 1920s and 1930s as music hall, variety and revue entertainers, and later actors on stage and screen. From entertaining troops during the First World War, to mixing with the Bohemian Set in Effingham, Gwen and Norah were household names, singing popular love songs of the day and living together openly in an on and off stage partnership.

Effingham Local History Group

Behind the Lines

This display, jointly created by Behind the Lines theatre company and Effingham Local History Group, details Gwen and Norah’s fascinating lives and careers, friends, and lovers, and their circle of relationships, including their Surrey connections.

Their act was original, quirky and musically extremely accomplished. For many years they were fearless in their refusal to conform to social expectations. in the 1930s, this fascinating story charts their rise to fame, their personal and professional relationship, and their wide social circle. They were independent, talented and ambitious and it is fitting that they should be remembered and celebrated as LGBT icons for LGBT History Month.

A Cup of LGBT History

Click on the image to see and download a pdf copy of the poster.

At Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, GU21 6ND.

Thursday 22 February, 6.30pm – 9pm

Join Surrey Heritage and Outline, Surrey’s LGBT support organisation for a cup of LGBT history to celebrate LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans) History Month. As well as free coffee and cake there will be talks about popular 1920s and 1930s music hall performers Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney, Surrey History Centre, and Outline.

Surrey Heritage will also be showcasing historical LGBT documents from our archives (which are housed in 6 miles of shelving in our strongrooms!). There will be relevant displays and an LGBT film on loop from the Independent Cinema Office.

We will also be joined by a whole host of Surrey community organisations with information displays and stands: Surrey and Borders Partnership, Phoenix Cultural Centre, Surrey Libraries, Surrey Police LGBT+ plus more to be confirmed!

Free, no booking required.

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Journey’s End – the new film is here!

Fri, 26/01/2018 - 15:22

Popcorn and hankies at the ready, the wait is over and the new film based on RC Sherriff’s great World War One play, and subsequent novelization, Journey’s End, is here! It will be released on 2 February 2018 by Lionsgate.

Throughout filming, the production company, Fluidity Films, kept Surrey History Centre up to date with developments (see previous blog http://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/film-editing-stage/), and there were tantalising tweets and images of scenes on the set from cast. Staff from Surrey History Centre were privileged to attend the ‘cast and crew’ film premier at The Picture House Cinema, London, on 21 May 2017, although we were sworn to secrecy about the final cut, until now. Images courtesy of Di Stiff, Surrey Heritage.

This modern film adaptation, directed by Saul Dibb, and produced by Simon Reade and Guy de Beaujeau, is gritty, brutal in places, and very much true to the original feel and message that Sherriff aimed to convey. Written ten years after the Armistice, Journey’s End was not an anti-war play; it simply related Sherriff’s experiences as he witnessed them. Throughout his service he corresponded almost daily with his parents and his letters are filled with a desperate yearning for a safe return to his loving family. Censorship and a desire not to disturb his parents too much prevented him from writing the unvarnished truth. Sherriff drew extensively on his letters when writing his unpublished war memoirs, which inspired him to write Journey’s End. This new film captures both the horror and trauma of the trenches, as well as the humour and comradeship.

Genius casting for the film sees Paul Bettany as the supportive Lieutenant Osborne (‘Uncle’), Sam Claflin as war weary Captain Stanhope, Asa Butterfield as newly posted officer, Raleigh, Toby Jones as soldier-cook, Mason, Stephen Graham as mild-mannered Second Lieutenant Trotter, and Tom Sturridge as hard-drinking Second Lieutenant Hibbert.

Central to the making of the film has been Fluidity Films’ work with, and support of, Combat Stress, the charity that cares for veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In the play and film, Stanhope suffers from (undiagnosed) PTSD or ‘shell shock’ and Hibbert hides his trauma behind alcohol. Sherriff would have empathized – as a result of the constant noise of bombardment in the trenches, he himself suffered from what at the time was diagnosed as ‘neuralgia’. In his letters home Sherriff writes about these traumatic conditions and his shredded nerves.

Journey’s End has been a constant feature of the National Curriculum and we are sure that this new film version will encourage more people to discover RC Sherriff’s wide literary legacy.

The film’s website, and trailer, giving all the details, can be found at http://www.fluidityfilms.co.uk/journey-s-end

Twitter #journeysend

Find out more about RC Sherriff, his collections and comrades, at Surrey History Centre http://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/themes/people/writers/sherriff/

Roland Wales, author of the new RC Sherriff biography From Journey’s End to the Dam Busters: The Life of R.C. Sherriff, Playwright of the Trenches (2016, Pen & Sword) has reviewed the film at https://www.rolandwales.com/journeys-end-movie-2017/. Roland’s blog features Sherriff’s letters home from the trenches on the date they were written, one hundred years to the day, see www.rolandwales.com. Read Roland’s mini biography of RC Sherriff, written for Lionsgate and The Telegraph as part of the film’s promotional campaign, here (pdf ).


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David Williams, Surrey Finds Liaison Officer: Obituary

Fri, 26/01/2018 - 10:53

David Williams FSA
Surrey Finds Liaison Officer

The following is the text of the address given at David’s funeral and subsequently published newsletter of the Society of Antiquaries.

David Williams FSA died on 9 December aged 68. He was elected a Fellow of the Society in April 1998. Sally Worrell FSA has kindly written this tribute, with help from his second cousin Marged Haycock, colleagues at the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and Surrey archaeologists:

‘David Wynn Williams died suddenly from a pulmonary and iliac embolism. His father, Dr Arthur Meirion Williams, was Consultant Anaesthetist at Redhill County Hospital and East Surrey hospitals, and his mother, Myfanwy Haycock, was an artist, poet and journalist trained in Cardiff, to whose memory David was devoted. Following her lead, he attended the Reigate School of Art, Design and Media. His artistic speciality was graphic design, and for many years he also undertook freelance work as a draughtsman, working on projects including plans and illustrations for museum guides and (in 1997–98) illustrations of Native American and South American artefacts and painted hides for the Museum of Mankind. He also undertook research in his own right, with his great skill to be seen in Late Saxon Stirrup-Strap Mounts: A Classification and Catalogue (1997), a pioneering corpus as it also included metal-detected finds.

‘David was a member of the Surrey Archaeological Society from boyhood. David Bird FSA, former Surrey County Archaeologist, notes that he served several times on the Society’s Council and was often consulted on finds made on excavations in the county. He was especially active around Reigate, where he lived, and undertook several published rescue excavations in the town centre, both as an amateur and a professional. Occasionally being obliged for site facilities, he once used an abandoned hearse as a site office!

‘Important work elsewhere in Surrey in which David was involved included the last of the recent excavations at Wanborough, the Roman-period rural temple complex (published in Surrey Archaeological Collections in 2007) and the excavation of a multi-period ritual site at Betchworth, near Dorking; the latter, which David dug in 1995 and 1996, fortunately reached publication shortly before his death. He acted for many years as adviser on illustrations for the Surrey Archaeological Collections, helping to maintain its high standards. He was also involved with the Finds Research Group, the Roman Finds Group, the Graphics Archaeological Group and Holmesdale Natural History Club.

David Williams FSA

‘David thought he had landed the perfect job as the PAS Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) for Surrey from 2003, and then for East Berkshire as well, recording thousands of objects. As David Bird writes, “This was a role for which he was very well suited, having a wide-ranging knowledge of artefacts of all types, grounded in great ability as an archaeological draughtsman and long experience in fieldwork. He had begun FLO-type work before the establishment of the PAS, working on a voluntary basis in Surrey and building links with responsible detectorists. Typically he established a series of reports for the Surrey Archaeological Collections that made the information thus gained more widely available.”

50 Finds from Surrey by David Williams FSA

‘PAS staff testify to his dedication, zest for work and expertise, as well as his sometimes quirky humour and kindness (he was especially enthused about the Eggheads challenge on BBC2, when he and four PAS colleagues took part in 2015). He was particularly pleased to publish 50 Finds from Surrey (2016). Memorably dismissive when he did not consider an object worth recording, he could also express exasperation when others did not meet his own standards of economy in description. He was very generous in giving time to illustrate objects, and was ever-willing to assist in documenting the sometimes overwhelming number of finds at metal-detector rallies or excavating the findspots of key objects, such as the Viking Watlington Treasure, where he and Emma Corke carried out a small excavation to understand the hoard’s context.

‘Beyond the PAS David relished outdoor life, and was enthusiastic about the need to preserve countryside habitats for the future. His enduring passion was wildlife, in particular birds. He often spent time off on long-distance walks, following the paths along the English and Welsh coasts of which he had walked a huge proportion. He will be much missed by his many friends and colleagues.’

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Family Search

Fri, 26/01/2018 - 00:02

I’ve been having a lovely time recently playing with the Family Search site.  They have changed it recently so you now have to register and log in every time you use it but I hope that this doesn’t put people off using it because it really is a fantastic resource.  It is well worth registering (and no, you won’t be pestered by hundreds of emails) as the rewards are great and its absolutely free!

Mind you, I would like to offer some constructive criticism in that it is not the easiest site to navigate.  Technically it is great, but sometimes trying to find things can be a little challenging – particularly if you have one of those ‘I know it’s there because I saw it last week’ moments.  I have so many pages from Family Search bookmarked on my computer that it has its own folder!!  However this can’t really be a criticism as it is more a matter of how things are named and labelled than where to find them.  I find (like all these sites) the more I use it, the easier it gets.

So what do I think are the highlights?

Family Search Wiki

The family search Wiki site is more or less an instruction manual of reference information, articles and talks designed to help family historians find and understand the records of their ancestors.  It is particularly valuable when you are researching an area about which you know very little – in my case, Berkshire.  I found the information on the County page to be invaluable as I could use the interactive map to find the location of my ancestors’ parishes and the neighbouring parishes.  There was also useful information such as which registration district the parishes fell within, which diocese they were part of, etc.  It has saved me so much time and frustration.  Not all the county maps are interactive but where they are, they are really useful.

However, even if there are no interactive maps, the information for each county is still there and it also covers Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

For example, I have many Wicklow ancestors.  Family Search Wiki has a page for Wicklow in Ireland, which gives me a basic history of the county, a list of record offices and local studies centres covering the county and information on civil registration with links to indexes on other pages.  There are also links to pages on land and property (specifically the Griffiths Valuation Office Books) maps (although this one is sadly NOT interactive – yet!) and details of the local history society.  It also has links to other sites where you might find information on Wicklow along with a selection of links to many other useful articles and information pages, such as the 1901 Townland Index.  Do try it, as if you have Irish Ancestors you will wonder how you managed without it!

Record Search

I have a bit of a love/hate thing going on with this.  I love the fact that it is there is so much there to search but the filter system to narrow down the search is a bit cumbersome.  I always worry that if I filter it too much I’m going to lose information, but without any filters at all you can bring up hundreds of names.  You do need to play about with it to make it work for YOU!  Having said that, you will find some extraordinary things!  I had lost track of one branch of my family, only to find that there was a re-marriage and they turned up in Boulogne in France!  I would never have found this out without Family Search!

Original Records

In the past, when the old International Genealogical Index (IGI) was first launched, there was a lot of criticism (isn’t there always!) that the LDS were a little unclear about a) the nature of the sources they included and b) citing their sources.  This has improved tremendously and now it is easy to see exactly where they found their information and which records they used.  In addition to this, they have also started to put a number of images or original records online, which are invaluable.  I have spent many happy hours trawling through the Registers of Irish Deeds, which is a vast improvement on having to visit the Registry of Deeds in Dublin (see https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/185720) – and a lot cheaper!!

Some records held on microfilm or digitally can only be accessed when visiting an LDS Centre so do take care when you search on their excellent catalogue that you are searching for records available at your local centre, not the one in Salt Lake City!

Family Search are digitising more and more of their records and making them available online.  Do take the time to explore this site – yes, it does look a bit different to some other sites and yes, it will take some time to get accustomed to.  However, here’s an idea!  Read the instructions (!) along with the vast amount of excellent articles and wallow in the huge amount of free information on the site.

Happy Researching!






PS:  Did you know that you can have free access to the British Newspaper Archive here at the History Centre?  The West Middlesex Herald is the latest newspaper to be digitised for this site and covers 1855 to 1895.  I’m looking forward to exploring this resource.

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Holly joins the March of the Women team

Tue, 16/01/2018 - 13:26

Holly Parsons, Project Officer

We would like to announce the arrival of the newest member of our team, Project Officer, Holly Parsons, who joins us from The Royal Pavilion and Museums in Brighton and has a range of experience working with volunteers, presenting talks and assisting at events. Holly is part-time, spending the rest of her working week at The Hockey Museum in Woking.

For the next year, Holly’s role will be to assist the five partner local museums with their audits of suffrage material, supervise our volunteers, organise and promote project events, and with Rosie, present talks to local groups and conferences. Holly, who has a strong passion for women’s history, is looking forward to getting to grips with the project:

Surrey Advertiser, Saturday 11th April 1914. Source: The British Newspaper Archive

“I have always been interested in the suffragettes; I am really looking forward to being able to learn more while developing my skills on the project. Since starting the project I have had my first try at newspaper indexing. Although I only looked at two or three from 1914, I found one which listed a Hon R.C. Grosvenor of Woking on the board of an anti-suffrage body. This opened up a desire to find out more about him. Who was he? Why was he anti suffrage? I cannot wait to find out more during the project using the resources available.”

Following Holly’s appointment, the team are now working towards the Surrey History Centre’s LGBT coffee evening event on 22nd February, where the project display will focus on Ethel Smyth, Suffragette, LGBT icon and composer of ‘The March of the Women’, the anthem for the Women’s Social and Political Union.

Hearts and Minds: the Untold Story of the Great Pilgrimage and How Women Won the Vote by Jane Robinson, 24th March 2018

We are also pleased to share details of our first public talk of the project, ‘Hearts and Minds: the Untold Story of the Great Pilgrimage and How Women Won the Vote’ by Jane Robinson held here at Surrey History Centre on 24th March, 11am-12.30pm. This will be about the Great Pilgrimage, a six-week protest march involving thousands of women, which passed through Surrey. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance if you would like to attend. You can find further details and booking information on our heritage events page here: https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/heritage-culture-and-recreation/archives-and-history/surrey-history-centre/heritage-events.

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Fri, 12/01/2018 - 00:02

Well, here’s to 2018! Anyone made any resolutions? I should say here and now that I don’t make resolutions, mainly because I’m pretty sure that they are going to get broken!! This is why the Gym Ball is still in the attic, the language course is still in the box and I’ve still not been to Japan!

So what Family History resolutions could we make which we might keep (or at least I might keep)? How about –

Sources: I did make a resolution last year which I am quite proud that I have (more or less) kept which is to update/correct all the sources on my family tree. This is quite a task as when I started the tree over 20 years ago, I enthusiastically hoovered up information – without recording any sources. It’s taking time, and I’ve got a little way to go, but I’m getting there. Anyone else feel like joining me on this one?

Filing: Okay – hands up – who has a drawer/box full of bits of paper, certificates, print-outs and photocopies that they are going to get around to filing sometime? Sometimes the job can seem so huge that (if like me) you simply open the box, sigh, and then put the kettle on and the lid back on the box and do something else. If this is the case, why not break the job down into easy chunks and do just one person or family? Sift through the paper mountain and organise the papers into family groups. That’s half the job done! If you are not sure how to organise all this information, why not go on-line (Pinterest is a fun way to do this) and look and see how other people have arranged their family history paperwork.

Brick Walls: Do you have someone on your family tree who you have abandoned because you simply can’t make any headway with the research? I have and it is tempting just to ignore them and perhaps go down a different route and research another branch of the tree – and that’s fine. However, why not re-visit that person and start again? What about reaching out for advice as to where to go next – either at the appropriate record office or online – perhaps use a genealogical chat-room such as Rootschat or similar? It always pays to talk to someone else when you hit a problem as bouncing ideas back and forth can often pay huge dividends. I met someone yesterday who had been searching for information on his grandfather for 30 years and after connecting with someone on-line, he found it last year!

Visit that Record Office: I’m going to Scotland this year to conduct research in the National Records of Scotland and the ScotlandsPeople centre. Is there anywhere you need to visit to find information? Why not combine it with a holiday (as I’m doing!) and also take in a little Ancestral Tourism at the same time? Walk in the footsteps of your ancestors and perhaps visit the churches where they were baptised or married, or even find where they lived. Mind you, given the weather at the moment – perhaps this is a resolution best saved for the summer!!

Give Something Back: There is so much fantastic stuff on-line and so many people are generous with their information and I for one am very grateful for this. So it’s rather nice to give something back. There are many ways to do this, such as creating your own website or putting your family tree on-line. However, there are other ways you can contribute. Many online groups such as FreeBMD look for volunteers to transcribe documents; perhaps you would like to join a family history society or a friends group (Surrey History Centre is wonderfully supported by the Surrey History Trust) and help out with the many and various family history projects they organise. Next time you visit a graveyard to search for ancestors, why not photograph a few gravestones and upload the information to FindAGrave.com? Joining and supporting these organisations can be a fun way to contribute, learn about the records and meet other like-minded people.

So those are my Family History Resolutions! Keeping them should be a pleasure rather than a chore so I’m hoping I won’t default too early. Has anyone else any tips for family history research for 2018?

Happy Researching!





PS: There are still a few places on my Family History Course beginning 9th February.  For further information see the Surrey History Centre Events Page

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