Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: Old British Currency

For a long time, I was surprised to see information about antique British money in UK genealogy books. Then I discovered poor law and hearth tax records.  Before or after the changes in the relief regulations in 1834, your ancestors will appear in parish rate books either as a poor person who received the amount of money listed or as a rich person who was assessed money to pay relief.

The old pound had the value of one pound of sterling silver and was divided into 20 shillings or 240 pennies. At one time, the old penny weighed 240th of a pound.  Each shilling had 12 pennies. The symbols for each were: £ for the pound, s for the shilling and d for the penny.
In old literature, we see references to other values such as crowns, florins, and guineas. They equaled five shillings, two shillings and one pound plus one shilling (£1 1s), respectively.

I think it is best to learn how small combinations were written because that is what you will find in parish rate books.
£12 10s 6d was the notation for twelve pounds, 10 shillings and 6 pennies. It was commonly written as £12-10-6.

10s-6d was also written 10/6 and pronounced ‘10 and 6.’
10/ meant ten shillings (half a pound).

On 15 February 1971, British money went to the decimal system and one pound was divided into 100 pennies or pence. The shillings were retired.
Online you can find more information at:


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: Museum of London

Some of my older posts suggest resources for researching in London. Let me add one of the most obvious of all – the Museum of  London which covers all aspects of the city and its inhabitants from pre-historic times to the present.

The Museum of London www.museumoflondon.org.uk has two locations:
1.      150 London Wall, London, EC2Y 5HN

2.      Museum of London Docklands, No. 1 Warehouse, West India Quay, London, E14 4AL
Large history collections are a wonderful source of information about the city where your ancestor lived, filling in the story and background. There are a few collections within the museum that might yield names and employment records, if an ancestor worked for such widely dissimilar employers as the Port of London or Sainsbury supermarkets. From the museum’s main page, click ‘Collections and Research’ to begin accessing this gold mine of information.

Besides maintaining its displays, the MOL organizes walking tours with titles such as ‘Roman London’ and ‘Shakespeare’s London’.
Both locations are open seven days, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. except Dec. 24-26. Admission is free.

Note: The Museum's logo is not just an example of contemporary art, it represents the city's borders through the ages.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday – Lusitania Sinks 7 May 1915

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the Lusitania sank one hundred years ago tomorrow. I hope my post will beat the deluge of bloggers commenting. This ship lives in American myth and legend. Most historians and genealogists would love to know more and love to know the real story.

Here are some facts from the RMS Lusitania website:

-Owned by Cunard Company, Lusitania was launched of 7 Jun 1906. She would make 101 round-trip voyages (or 202 crossings) during her 7-year-and-9-month career.

-On 7 May 1915, there were about 2000 people on board and 1200 perished. The wreck of the Lusitania lies at 51°25N 8°33W, about 300 feet underwater and approximately 11 miles south of the Old Head of Kinsale, Ireland.

Lusitania was carrying a great number of Americans and women and children as well as war materiel for the British Army. The sinking of the Lusitania and resulting deaths of civilians and neutral nationals aboard the ship is considered one of the first modern examples of “total war” and a turning point in World War I.

Many Americans believe that the Lusitania disaster was the tipping point that caused this country to enter the First World War. However, most historians do not agree. The sinking of the steamship is often credited for turning American public opinion against the Axis Powers. Germany, fearing American wrath, restrained itself in submarine warfare, which may have been its best chance to win the war.  “Yet, it was Germany’s very resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare in early 1917 (in addition to the decoding of the Zimmerman Telegram) that finally forced the United States to declare war.” From www.rmslusitania.info

I am anticipating reading the new book timed to appear for the centennial, Dead Wake by Erik Larson, the author of Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts. According to the review by Alexandra Alter in the New York Times, it took Larson five years to do the research, always a good sign. He was able to find war telegrams, love letters, diaries and autopsy reports.   It is available from the usual online and bricks and mortar book sellers.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Royal Newfoundland Regiment at Gallipoli

As I mentioned in a previous post, 25 April 2015 marks the 100th Anniversary of the landing of Allied forces at Gallipoli, including forces from Britain, Australia and New Zealand. The only North American unit in the entire 8 month long campaign was the Royal Newfoundland Regiment (RNR) that landed later on 20 September 1915. However, today is not Memorial Day in the province.

Later in the war, the regiment was virtually wiped out on 1 Jul 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Since then July 1 has been Memorial Day in Newfoundland and Labrador. Traditionally, remembrance ceremonies are held in the morning, and then the day gives way to celebrations for the nationwide holiday, Canada Day.
Britain entered World War I on 4 Aug 1914 and about 1000 men had enlisted for the Newfoundland Regiment by the end of September. They trained on the outskirts of St. John’s before shipping out for more training in England and Scotland where they became part of the 29th Division of the British Army. (Newfoundland was a British Dominion and not part of Canada at the time.)

The British and French wanted to get supplies to their allies in Russia. Overland routes were blocked and getting past the German north coast in the Baltic was problematic. The third route was to get supplies through to the Russian Black Sea ports via the Dardenelles Strait controlled by the Ottoman Empire, allies of the Germans. The Gallipoli Peninsula is at the Mediterranean end of the north side of the Dardanelles.
Conditions on the battlefield were awful with both water shortages and weather to challenge the Allies. There was trench warfare here as well as Europe. The RNR are renowned for capturing Caribou Hill, which the Turks were using to snipe at the allied forces. No military breakthrough occurred so it was decided to withdraw.

While not arriving at Gallipoli at the beginning of the campaign, the Newfoundland Regiment provided necessary cover on the last day as troops pulled out, 9 Jan 1916. Thirty men had been killed or mortally wounded. Ten more had died of disease. In one of the worst winters in decades, the soldiers really suffered. One hundred fifty were treated for frostbite and exposure.

After a short rest period, the regiment would be assigned duty in France and suffer an immense loss. In all, 6200 men served in the RNR with 1300 dead – a very high price.

Sources: www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/first-world-war/fact_sheets/gallipoli

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: 2015 UK Military Anniversaries

The latest Federation of Family History Societies (FFHS) ezine reminded me that there are three significant military anniversaries during the next ninety days! As genealogists we saw that last year’s commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the First World War gave us new databases to search. I am thinking of soldiers wills and war diaries put online for the first time in 2014. We still have three years before these commemorations end, presumably on 11 November 1918.

FFHS tells us that the first two events happened in 1915, and the third will be the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, famous in history as well as language and song. You can subscribe to this free online magazine here.  This issue highlighted these events:
  1.        The Gallipoli Landings (April 1915)
  2.        The Sinking of the Lusitania ( 7 May 1915)
  3.        The Battle of Waterloo (18 Jun 1815)
The Gallipoli Landings

While all countries involved will recognize this centennial, it will be significant for Australians and New Zealanders as they join together to remember the Gallipoli campaign, which marks the first major military action fought by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) during World War I. The battle involved more than 550,000 Allied troops on land and in ships off the coast of Turkey and lasted more than eight months. Troops first landed on April 25, known in Australia and New Zealand as ANZAC Day. This year there will be a Commonwealth and Ireland ceremony at the Helles Memorial in Turkey, the site of the largest ANZAC commemoration outside of Australia and New Zealand.

“In London, there will be three separate events taking place on the 25 April. For details please visit the Australian High Commission (UK)website.  Please visit the Australian Memorial website for details of ceremonies taking place, exhibitions and links to ‘The Anzac Collections Project’ where you can read stories of ordinary people caught up in the extraordinary events of the war. For details of ANZAC commemorations in New Zealand, please visit the New Zealand Government website which includes a useful and informative ‘Guide to Gallipoli’. “ (FFHS)

Note: The only North American unit in this battle was from Newfoundland, then a British dominion and not part of Canada. Information about the role of the Newfoundland Regiment can be found at www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/first-world-war/fact_sheets/gallipoli

The Sinking of the Lusitania
“The sinking of RMS Lusitania occurred on 7 May 1915; an event regarded as having been a turning point of the First World War. The ship was torpedoed by the German U-boat U20 and is reported to have gone down in 18 minutes off the coast of Ireland. The sinking was a contributory factor to the American entry into World War One. Of the known 1,960 people on board, 768 survived and 1,192 perished in the disaster…The Lusitania Resource website contains much information on its history, Passenger & Crew Biographies, and Lusitania Facts..."  (FFHS)

To read some very poignant biographies, please visit www.rmslusitania.info.” This website seems to be the best on the subject. On the home page, the menu on the left lets you choose passenger list, crew list, survivors, victims, stowaways…plus a few more categories.

Note: A new book about the Lusitania is topping the non-fiction charts even though it has not been released, as I write this. It is Dark Wake by Erik Larsson, the very successful author of The Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts.

The Battle of Waterloo
The phrase 'meet your Waterloo' has been with us since the fateful day in June 1815. In commemoration of the bicentenary of Waterloo, the 2015 issue of FFHSs ‘really useful information leaflet’ contains an article by military historian, Simon Fowler, which will assist you in researching those who fought in the Napoleonic Wars. Download the leaflet here www.ffhs.org.uk/rul-2015-03.pdf.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Tuesday's Tip: The Domesday Book

A person asked me at last month’s meeting of my UK Gen Research group, “What is the Domesday Book?” To my surprise, I remembered the basics: it’s a list of landholders recorded during the reign of William, the Conqueror which began in 1066. Not bad, but here are more details: 

What is the Domesday Book?
It is a listing of landholders and values in England in 1086 ordered by William the Conqueror, which contains information for that year and 1066, the year of the conquest.   

Why is it important to history and genealogy?
It is “the oldest survey of land, owners and occupiers in Britain.” (Herber)

What information is included?
Technically the land was all owned by the sovereign until he/she granted ownership or tenancy to a major tenant. In return the tenant could lease land to a subtenant who could further subdivide it. Everyone in the chain owed the king or queen soldiers in time of war and/or other payment or service. This is the essence of the feudal system.

The Domesday Book is a listing of more than 13,000 land holders at the major tenant and sub-tenant level. There are few, if any, ordinary people.
What area is covered?

There are two volumes. The first, called Little Domesday, covers the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. Great Domesday, covers the rest of England, except London and Winchester and the counties in the north; Northumberland, Cumberland, Durham, and northern Westmoreland.
What would an entry for a parish contain?

Thanks to Mark Herber’s book, Ancestral Trails, page 673, we know that the entry for Dunsford, Devon translates from the original Latin:
Saewulf holds DUNFORD. He held it himself before 1066. It paid tax for 1 virgate of land. Land for 1 plough. 3 smallhoolders, pasture, 20 acres. Value 40d

             For more information go to the website www.domesdaybook.co.uk
                It has the list of names from the book. 

What do the experts say? How can genealogists use the information?
“You are most unlikely to trace your ancestry to persons named in Domesday, unless you find a link to nobility, but it is fun to read entries, over 900 years old, about places in which your ancestors lived.” (Herber)

“Information about ordinary people's lives does exist, but it often occurs in records created for other purposes. In general, archival records contain information about wealthier landowning members of society, so most ordinary people are less well documented. Before 1538, when parish registers began, births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials were not officially recorded, though some notes may have been kept by the priest. However, many other records which contain genealogical information start well before 1538, and continue long after.”  (The National Archives)

I am not an expert but…the earliest English ancestors who I can document are a man and woman married about 1575. I would need to trace back another 500 years +/- to get to 1066. It seems like a daunting task, going well before Henry the VIII required records be kept. I would need a miracle or a connection to nobility, both highly unlikely.

For more optimistic information about genealogy at the turn of the last millennium, check the websites for medieval genealogy and the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy listed below.

Herber, Mark. Ancestral Trails. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2006.




www.fmg.ac  - Foundation for Medieval Genealogy

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: London in 1700

Waller, Maureen. 1700:  Scenes from London Life. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2000.

Most of my English ancestors are from rural areas. What I know about London life I learned from Oliver Twist and Tim Cratchit.  I needed a book to fill in some details and found the one above at a used book sale. The first five chapter headings were intriguing and should catch the eye of all genealogists: marriage, childbirth, childhood, disease and death.
I am not surprised to find that the author wrote an entire book about marriage after reading the first few pages of this book’s ‘Marriage’ chapter. She points out the constraints put on marrying couples by the church, including the costs. People were put off by the reading of the banns, seeing them as an invasion of privacy. Since this practice continued into my lifetime in my childhood church, I never really gave it any thought. Waller describes the clandestine marriage mills in London where about one-third of the ceremonies in 1700 were performed, in order to avoid the church requirements.
Waller later wrote a book that used all the information she gathered about London in 1700 called Ungrateful Daughters: The Stuart Princesses Who Stole Their Father’s Crown. This book is about the Glorious Revolution of 1688, Mary II and Queen Anne whose reign ended in 1714.

            Other books by Maureen Waller:
The English Marriage: Tales of Love, Money and Adultery
London 1945: Life in the Debris of War
A Family in Wartime: How the Second World War Shaped the Lives of a Generation
Ungrateful Daughters: The Stuart Princesses Who Stole Their Father’s Crown
Sovereign Ladies: Sex, Sacrifice and Power – The Six Reigning Queens of England

All of the books are available on amazon.com.