May 052020

Using the #OnePlaceWednesday hashtag over on Twitter last week, with our Members’ Website Competition in mind (see below), I highlighted several Society members’ websites featuring recently-added content. I have started doing something similar on our Facebook page too (if you use either of these platforms, you do follow us, don’t you?). I thought it would be helpful to gather these updates together in a blog post, and the rest of the Society’s Committee agreed, so here goes!

Alpha – Jericho in Queensland , Australia (Janice Cooper)

Janice has been ‘keeping it Real’ in the latest addition to the blog on her OPS website, with William Real, a life of contrasts added on 23 April. It combines family history and local history, features an historic document, and is fully referenced. What's not to like?

Antrobus in Cheshire, England (Clare Olver)

In Have you ever wondered who lived in your house? (posted on 12 April), Clare explains how people can find out more about their Antrobus home or ancestors through her website. In a follow-up posted on 3 May, Have you ever wondered who lived in your house? Part 2, Clare describes some research carried out by, and with, a visitor to her website, and tells “the story of how over the space of a few hours on a Saturday in May, it is possible to harness your inner Poirot and find out the backstory to who lived in your house.”

Badsey, Aldington and Wickhamford in Worcestershire, England (Maureen Spinks for the Badsey Society)

Badsey Society members have been very busy adding new content to their website this year, with four new articles in April and another five already in May! These posts cover both people and places within the Society’s study area: village of Badsey, the hamlet of Aldington and the neighbouring parish of Wickhamford.

Buckland Brewer in Devon, England (Janet Few / Buckland Brewer History Group)

Covid-19 has not prevented the Buckland Brewer History Group from meeting – like so many during lockdown, they have moved online. As Janet reported on 16 April: Buckland Brewer History Group Goes Virtual.

Combe Downe in Somerset, England (Richard Hill)

After spending many months working on a Combe Down family tree, on 5 April Richard added a post to his one-place study blog with a title which he believes gives a more accurate description of the results: Combe Down family maze. It looks like Richard has had an a-maze-ing time! This has been followed by a post introducing a story provided to Richard by another researcher, The Miner family on Combe Down.

Dayton, LaSalle County, in Illinois, USA (Candace Wilmot)

People and traditions in her Place have been the subjects of Candace’s five blog posts in April. April Fool’s Day, members of the Trumbo family, basket picnics and May baskets all feature in the most recent additions to Dayton and the Greens.

Gravesend, Brooklyn in New York, USA (Joseph Ditta)

Joseph has recently added an amazing recipe-sharing post to his OPS blog: Wyckoff-Bennett Wafers. Featuring Gertrude Ryder Bennett (1901-1982), a wafer iron so heavy as to suggest that “a crane would have held it over the fire”, and a lost-and-then-found historic recipe, it’s a fascinating read!

Great Ellingham in Norfolk, England (Heather Etteridge)

Heather has been incredibly busy of late, posting a wide range of articles many of which are based on newspaper reports featuring her Place. 12 additions were made in April (culminating with Fowl Dealer down on his Luck) and ten on 1 May (the latest being Mary Ann Scent, daughter of James Matthews). To view them all (along with earlier posts) visit Heather’s website.

Murphys Creek in Queensland , Australia (Pauleen Cass)

Murphys Creek, in words or pictures, makes guest appearances in several of Pauleen’s A-Z Challenge blog posts during April including: Bravery in Family History, Love and the Law, Nature’s Glory and Drama, Of Reading and Religion, and Yearning for “Home”.

North Walls and Brims in Orkney, Scotland (Jane Harris)

Jane blogged about the gamekeepers of her place for the Society’s A – Z Challenge in April, and has very sensibly adapted that post for her own website’s blog (something I have done myself, as you will soon see!). Check out G for gamekeeper.

Parham in Suffolk, England (Simon Last)

Pictorial posts to the Parham Suffolk Facebook Page are regularly added by Simon, along with occasional requests for information on people from Parham’s past, and April has been no exception!

Rillington in North Yorkshire, England (Pam Smith)

Many updates, featuring some fab photos and marvellous maps, have been posted by Pam to the Rillington OPS Facebook page. As with the Parham page above, this is well worth a ‘Like’ if you are on Facebook and would benefit from seeing some extra one-place studies goodness showing up on your timeline.

Springhill in Lancashire, England (Janet Barrie)

In a one-place studies twist on the 52 Ancestors blogging prompts issued by Amy Johnson Crow, Janet has been adding ‘52 Residents’ posts to her OPS blog. Posts in April have covered prompts 14 to 17: water, fire, air, and land.

Thockrington in Northumberland, England (Janet Few)

Thockrington is the latest addition to Janet’s clutch of one-place studies. In Burials in Thockrington, Janet presents the results of an analysis using Bishop’s Transcripts and entries in the National Burial Index for the parish, with some groovy graphs.

Waters Upton in Shropshire, England (Steve Jackson)

I have expanded one of the blog posts I wrote for the Society’s A – Z Challenge in April, and on 5 May added Blacksmiths in Waters Upton – Part 1 to my (recently upgraded) WordPress-based OPS website.

Wonersh in Surrey, England (Jan Cooper)

Jan has been updating the online family tree for her OPS regularly during April, and has a page which shows the Recent Updates. The linked Wonersh Past and Present Facebook Group also looks to be very active.

Woodnorth in Manitoba, Canada (Pamela Forsyth)

The addition of new transcriptions and photos for her OPS during April is announced in two posts from Pamela in her website’s blog.

That’s it for this round-up - I hope I haven't missed anything! Feel free to notify me of any updates to your OPS websites or pages, so that I can share the love of one-place studies via social media and in further blog posts like this one.

If you have a website which you haven’t updated recently, why not have a look to see if there’s anything you can add based on additions to genealogy websites such as Ancestry and Findmypast (or historic newspaper sites like British Newspaper Archive, Chronicling America, Papers Past, Trove, and Welsh Newspapers Online)?

Finally, whether you have a website or not, please consider nominating at least one of your fellow members’ sites in our first Members’ Website Competition, announced on page 15 of the March edition of our journal Destinations. We will be judging entries based on design (the visual appearance of the website; presentation and layout of pages), Usability (the organisation of the website; ease of navigation; readability of content), Content (the information on the website; good synthesis of data; range of data sources used), and Updates (regularity of updates and additional content, for example blog posts). Please submit your nominations by 30 June 2020 – the winner will be announced at our Annual Conference and AGM on 14 November.

Steve Jackson
Social Media Coordinator

Apr 302020


It's April so it's time for our members to help us blog through the 2020 A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our chosen theme this year is Employment, also the topic of our Shared Endeavour where our members are encouraged to research employment within their one-place study. Today's entry is from Steve Pickthall.

There don't seem to be very many occupations that start with the letter "Z" - despite checking a number of on-line sources, I found only Zigarius, Zinc Worker, Zincographer, Zitherist, Zoetrope Maker, Zincographer, Zoographer, Zumologist and Zythepsarist. You may not be surprised to hear that I have not found any people with these occupations in my place which is New Fishbourne a small village in Sussex. We have not been offered any blogs for this letter from members which suggests that other places don't have people with these type of occupations (if there are, we would love to know in the comments).

It is thought that surnames (or last names) come from a number of origins:

  • Patronymic or Matronymic - handed down from or inherited from the father or mother (or sometimes the mother's parents) or names that are a contraction of "son of x" such as Johnson or Evans
  • Personal attributes - descriptive names such as Short, Brown, Young, Long, White.
  • Locational - where a person lived or came from for example York, London, Field, Hill, Fleming
  • Adoptive - on marriage or taking the surname of a rich relative or powerful local lord (maybe in an attempt to win favour or reject one's existing family?)
  • Using second personal name as a surname - for example John Jacob (although these may be patronymic instead)
  • Occupational - Archer, Thatcher, Gardener, Smith or Cook

Looking through the A-Z blog for this year there are so many occupational terms that have become surnames - Salt, Farmer, Judge, Clerk, Master, Porter, Nurse are just a few of them, there are many, many more. Some are easy to identify such as Baker, but a number refer to occupations that are generally obsolete such as Fletcher (a maker of arrows in case you wondered).

So as we come to the end of this year's A-Z challenge I would like you to think about how the names of occupation have influenced and contributed to the surnames we come across in real life and more importantly in the places we study. I would also like to thank all those who have contributed to the success of this year's challenge.

Apr 292020


It's April so it's time for our members to help us blog through the 2020 A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our chosen theme this year is Employment, also the topic of our Shared Endeavour where our members are encouraged to research employment within their one-place study. Today's entry is from Steve Pickthall.

What is a yeoman? Before I became interested in family and local history (and embarrassing to admit also for a long time after) I thought that a yeoman was something to do with the military - probably a mixture of being influenced by a combination of the Gilbert and Sulivan operetta; the yeoman of the Guard at the Tower of London (The Queen's Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard are a bodyguard of the British Monarch.); references in literary works for example from William Shakespeare - "Fight, gentlemen of England! fight, bold yeomen! Draw, archers, draw your arrows to the head! Spur your proud horses hard, and ride in blood; Amaze the welkin with your broken staves!"; and some half-remembered image similar to that below.

How a yeoman might dress

Eventually the light dawned (it doesn't happen often - I should really make a note in my diary when these rare events happen...). The word is used in two different ways - the one is used in the context of a fighting man (and often one who would be part of a landowner's private army in earlier times); the other to distinguish someone cultivating their own estate, effectively a freeholder.

According to Old Occupation Names on the Hall Genealogy Website the word originally (in the 16th and 17th century) had a more particular meaning in that it meant someone that held (and inherited) his land by "custom rather than will" so that the land passed automatically from father to son and the lord could not prevent it. The lord did retain rights over things such as cutting wood, hunting and mineral rights, but being a yeoman had other benefits - being able to graze your animals on common land and gaining some protection from the lord's control by local bylaws. It was therefore desirable to retain a small piece of your "own" land - however small.

By the 19th century after the progressive change in the way the country and in particular the countryside was governed, the term came to just be accepted as someone who farmed their own land - a useful distinction from the pervasive "ag. lab" that we find so many of.

In my own place of New Fishbourne, Sussex, I have not come across many mentions of  a "yeoman" - this may be because so far I have concentrated on 19th century research or a reflection of the pattern of land ownership (a question to be added to the ever-growing todo list of things to research). I have however come across one entry in the Births, Marriages and Deaths column for the Sussex Advertiser for the 24th May 1841 - "Died - On Wednesday, 19th inst. the wife of Mr. Willis Hardham, yeoman, Fishbourne, near Chichester." - not just a yeoman, but the wife of one.

When I next have the satisfaction of planting my potatoes on my own (very) small patch of land, I will remember that this is what being a yeoman is all about....

Apr 282020


It's April so it's time for our members to help us blog through the 2020 A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our chosen theme this year is Employment, also the topic of our Shared Endeavour where our members are encouraged to research employment within their one-place study. Today's entry is from Janet Barrie.

Xylophone. Unfortunately we have no xylophone manufacturers to my knowledge in Springhill. No xylophone players either, though one resident was a semi-professional kit drummer. I know, that would be ‘P is for percussionist’ or ‘D is for drummer'.

Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures / CC BY-SA (

Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures / CC BY-SA (

x-ray. i’m not aware of any X-ray operatives either, thought that would be ‘R is for radiographer’.

xenon administrator. Well, nearly. I am an anaesthetist and Springhill resident, and xenon is an anaesthetic. The only problem is that I’ve never actually used it…

x for the unknown. Now I have plenty of those:

Firstly there are people whose occupations are known, but I don’t know what they actually involved. One example is Harry Taylor, who worked all his working life in Gaghills footwear mill as a ‘clicker’. It was quite a while before I found out that a clicker was the man (and it was usually a man) who cut the leather to the required pattern to be sewn into shoes. Apparently it was one of the most sought after (and best paid) jobs in the factory. The name ‘clicker’ came from the sound the cutter made as it clicked over the corrugated support over which the leather was stretched. 

There are other examples. The 1841 census includes one Thomas Walsh, age 30, ‘chair bottomer’. Now that sounds obvious, but did they really employ someone just to put the bottoms on chairs? A ‘mule piecer’ spent his days joining the ends of broken spinning threads, not assembling beasts of burden. And if you are not familiar with the textile industry you may wonder what the census enumerator meant by ‘PLWC’ - power loom weaver of cotton.

Secondly there are people who I know lived in the area but have no idea what they actually did. The census of course helpfully lists names and occupations. Unfortunately other sources aren’t so kind: rates books, voters’ lists, lists of tenants in deeds… It’s relatively easy to know who lived where, sometimes much harder to know how they earned a living if they didn’t happen to be on the census. Some sources help of course. Newspapers may state the occupation and the council minutes helpfully document that one Eileen Taylor had recently been appointed as librarian.

But that’s all part of the fun. And it wouldn’t be fun if it was easy.

Apr 272020


It's April so it's time for our members to help us blog through the 2020 A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our chosen theme this year is Employment, also the topic of our Shared Endeavour where our members are encouraged to research employment within their one-place study. Today's entry is from Karen Bailey.

This blog post technically features not one but eight jobs – a bumper crop!


The workhouse is a fairly standard feature in most English and many Welsh towns in the Victorian period. Established after the introduction of the 1834 Poor Law, the idea was to reduce the cost of the poor from the parish by “encouraging” the poor to work to be able to support themselves rather than rely on parish support. Poor people, including children, worked in the workhouse doing often hard labour in return for shelter, food, and education for children.

Conditions inside the workhouses were terrible – after all, the whole point is to allow people to work to be able to drag themselves out of poverty, so they couldn’t be seen to be too inviting or it would more likely encourage too many people to enter the workhouse if it was seen as an “easy way out”.  Families were split up and men, women and children kept apart in different areas of the workhouse. Alas, sometimes people were so poor that they simply had no other choice but enter the workhouse; based on my own family history research, they often didn’t leave again and went from workhouse to grave.

Nothing still stands of Droitwich Workhouse, but this image shows the boys’ yard and Master’s house at Llanfyllin workhouse in Mid-Wales, UK, which was built to a similar layout. Source: Author’s own image.

The Poor Law grouped parishes into Unions, and each Union was responsible for building and maintaining a workhouse. The Unions local to my One-Place Study, Droitwich, include Bromsgrove, Kings Norton, Kidderminster and Droitwich itself. An 1843 record from the (English) National Archives recently released as part of their “free digital records” (do go and check that out to see if there are any records available for your Place!), shows a list of jobs within these Unions and the salaries which each were paid.

In brief, the jobs listed are:

  • Clerks: the “personal assistants” of the workhouse, doing everything from organising meetings to writing up and submitting reports; Droitwich had one.
  • Relieving Officers: These evaluated anyone applying for entry to the workhouse and approved their entry (or not). Droitwich had three.
  • Auditor: As the role would entail today, the auditor ensured financial transparency and accuracy of reports. Droitwich had one.
  • Master and Matron: These were very often a husband and wife combination. The Master oversaw the management of the workhouse, whilst the Matron acted as his deputy while also dealing with anything to do with female or child inmates. Droitwich had one of each.
  • Porter: Much like in a hotel, the porters dealt with all goods and persons entering or leaving the workhouse.
  • Schoolmaster: To give the children a basic education and generally supervise them. Droitwich had a combined porter and schoolmaster.
  • Nurse: To care for the sick and infirm of the workhouse. Interestingly, Kidderminster lists one but Droitwich, Bromsgrove and Kings Norton did not. Perhaps their poor were not as sick?
Extract from a table of workhouses, found in the (English) National Archives, of the Droitwich Poor Law Union’s entry showing jobs and salaries.

Extract from a table of workhouses, found in the (English) National Archives, of the Droitwich Poor Law Union’s entry showing jobs and salaries.

Interestingly, the document appears to be a recommendation to reduce the salaries of the workhouse employees within the Bromsgrove and Kidderminster Unions! Apparently, Droitwich and Kings Norton were paying their employees a reasonable sum, as none of those are annotated to be reduced.

If you are interested in learning more about workhouses generally, I wholeheartedly recommend looking at Peter Higginbotham’s for an excellent resource for both workhouses and the Poor Law generally, and for every (I believe!) workhouse in England including histories, records excerpts and photographs.