So Easter is upon us again and you can celebrate with religious festivals or eating far too much chocolate. But what things did your ancestors get up to? Well you may be pleases to hear that the UK has a proud tradition of doing some really weird things over Easter.
Well if your ancestors were from Yorkshire they may have taken part in the World Coal Carrying Championship. In this event held in the Yorkshire town of Ossett a sack of coal weighing 1 hundredweight or 50 kg for men and 20 kg for women has to be carried from the Royal Oak pub to the maypole in Gawsworth, a distance of just over 1000 meters, as fast as possible. This event has been held since 1963.
Your Leicestershire ancestors may have taken part in the ancient art of bottle kicking. The first mention of this event is in the 1770’s. In the event the villages of Hallaton and Medbourne fight over three barrels of beer. Each side has to try and get the barrels to their village in a rule free contest that usually end up in blood and pain for the contestants after several hours, but it’s OK as the villages share the beer!
What about in Lancashire well you ancestors may have taken place in Nutters Dance. This is similar to Morris Dancing but the men where black and white costumes and have dirty faces. So any ancestors from the town of Baccup may have done this on Easter Saturday. In fact any ancestors from a more rural community may have taken part in Morris Dancing throughout the country. These dances have been taking place since the 1400’s and involve a group of usually me dancing to music fiddle music accompanied by a drum. The men where white with brightly coloured ribbons tied to them and bells on their legs. They carry hankie or clubs. Some believe the dances are fertility dances to encourage the crops to grow. These days the dances are usually done outside pubs and involve drinking much beer in rural villages in England but there are now sides (the name for a group of morris men) throughout the world.
Ancestors who lived near Smithfield in London may have taken part in the practice of the widow’s charity. It was in effect a form of helping the poor. People would place 21 sixpences (a sixpence was about 2.5 pence so in total is about 50p) on to the tombs in the grave yard. This money was then distributed to 21 poor widows of the parish. Your ancestors could have been the givers or the receivers.
My personal favourite is the ancient art of egg rolling. In this people stand at the top of a hill and roll their eggs down a hill. The first to the bottom wins. This is done throughout the UK but in particular in Preston, Lancashire. In the Bedfordshire town of Dunstable they use oranges instead of eggs. I suppose an orange would survive better than an egg.
Each town or village probably had some sort of tradition they carried out. Some may have distributed relief to the poor, others may have had festivals and plays. In reality Easter, aside from the religious significance meant that winter had lost its grip on the land and new life began to spring up. Easter became a time for celebration as the days got longer and warmer. The harsh conditions were over, food was going to become more plentiful and the people had a reason to look forward to the summer to come.
So however you spend Easter, be it with an egg hunt, a bonnet competition, religious practices or just eating far too much chocolate until you feel sick have fun!
On the 24th March 1603 Queen Elizabeth I died at the age of 69 thus bringing to an end the Tudor dynasty (sort of). The dynasty had run from 22 August 1485 when Henry Tudor of the house of Lancaster defeated King Richard III of the house of York during the Wars of the Roses. The house of Tudor gave us King Henry VII, King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, Queen Jane, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. Each had their own beliefs and campaigns and caused turmoil in the land, but who was the greatest Tudor?
Well it could be argued it was Henry VII as he was the start of the family being the monarchs of the land. Henry reigned from 22 August 1485 – 21 April 1509. He was the nephew of King Henry VI. He fought alongside his father Edmund Tudor, his uncle Jasper Tudor and his grandfather Owen Tudor in the wars of the roses. He united the houses of Lancaster and York when he married Elizabeth of York the daughter of King Edward IV. He united England and Scotland again through the marriage of his daughter Margaret to King James IV of Scotland. He boosted the country’s economy through his policies and gained much revenue from taxes. Many called him the greatest miser in the land as he didn’t always spend the revenue on the land. He created alliances with Spain and thus their supporters and he was a devoted family man who was devastated by the death of his wife.
Was it Henry VIII who reigned from 21 April 1509 – 28 January 1547? Well he probably is the most well-known of the Tudors, mainly by his happy use of the executioner. He took England away from the influences of the Catholic faith and the influence of Rome when he declared himself head of the Church of England. He forged alliances with France through the marriage of his sister Mary to King Louis XII, although he still fought with them on occasions and maintained the alliance his father established with Spain through his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. He was a great supported of the tournament in his younger years and was consider a great jouster. He was also a keen real tennis player. He did away with some of the strong taxes his father implemented although in later years his fondness for war, particularly with France, left the country nearly bankrupt. He also greatly supported the England’s food industry singlehanded through his love of eating. Although he was considered an evil tyrant he had a fondness for merriment and loved dressing up and surprising people. All in all Henry was probably a confident and insecure man all at the same time.
King Edward VI is probably one of the less well known Tudors. Edward reigned from 28 January 1547 – 6 July 1553. He reign was mainly carried out by his protector Edward Seymour who was his mother’s brother. Edward was just 9 when he came to the throne. He was the first monarch of England to be completely protestant. He is probably best known for troubles his death caused when he named his cousins eldest daughter as his successor. King Henry VIII named Edward as his heir and then the descendants of his sister Mary and her husband Charles Brandon. Edward didn’t want his catholic sister Mary to inherit the throne and since both she and his other sister Elizabeth had been declared illegitimate then Jane Grey was his heir.
Jane Grey was queen for 9 days in July 1553. She was the great granddaughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York through their daughter Mary and her second husband Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Jane’s parents were Frances Brandon and Henry Grey who were the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk. Jane married Guilford Dudley in May 1553. When Edward VI died she was proclaimed Queen. Unfortunately Mary Tudor, Edward’s sister and much of the country didn’t like this so uprisings ensued. Mary matched on London and took the throne with the help of the Privy Council. Jane and her husband were sent to the tower along with Jane’s father in law the Duke of Northumberland. All were executed the same year. Jane was just 16 or 17.
Mary I reigned from 6 July 1553 (the date her brother Edward VI died) until the 17 November 1558. He reign is probably best remembered for her persecution of those of the protestant faith. She turned England back to Rome and set about burning at the stake many protestant bishops and supporters including her father’s great friend Bishop Thomas Cramner. She was given the nick name Bloody Mary as a result of the high number of deaths, mostly under the Heresy act which made Protestantism illegal. As a result nearly 300 people were burnt to death and many hundreds fled the country. Mary survived the Wyatt rebellion which was a plot to take the throne away from her and replace her with her protestant half-sister Elizabeth. Mary had Elizabeth imprisoned in the Tower of London, but she had to release her. Mary had an ill-fated marriage to her Spanish cousin Phillip and suffered several phantom pregnancies. When she died she reluctantly left the throne to her protestant half-sister Elizabeth.
Elizabeth I or Good Queen Bess reigned from 17 November 1558 until 24 March 1603. She brought England back to Protestantism although she didn’t prosecute Catholics as she had a policy of religious tolerance. She fought off the Spanish Armada in 1588 and made her famous speech at Tilbury docks to the troops where she stated: “I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a King of England too”. She also supported the new Protestant King of France against the rest of Catholic Europe. She famously refused to marry as she didn’t want her husband to take the throne over her. This lead to problems with the succession after she died. She was convinced that those who had a claim to the throne were trying to take it away from her. She forbade her cousins from marrying and kept them close so she could control them. It even lead to her having her Catholic cousin Mary Queen of Scots being executed, although Elizabeth claimed she did mean for her to be killed. In the end she had to choose a successor virtually on her death bed and chose her cousin Mary Queen of Scots son James VI of Scotland. She was also rumoured to be one of the first people in England to have a guinea pig as a pet.
So who was the greatest? Well for me it’s Henry VIII every time. Yes he had issues and liked to solve his problems in a permanent way but boy did he know how to have fun! But then Elizabeth had a guinea pig and I love guinea pigs!
Anyone who’s ever looked at genealogy records will probably have come across several spellings for the same name. Sometimes a name can be spelt several ways but not always so why does this happen? Well it could be for many reasons but in general I think it comes down to one thing. Accents.
We all have one no matter what we think. You only have to watch TV or listen to those around you to realise this. Sometimes when you’re watch something you wonder what they’ve said as people’s accents can be really thick and if it’s not an accent you’re used to it can be confusing. So it’s logical to think that people’s accents have had an impact on records relating to our ancestors.
Accents change throughout all countries by regions and so how people pronounce their name will appear different. It is not uncommon for people from the south east of England to pronounce words with extra letters in them so they say carstle and barth instead of the correct way of castle and bath. So if those writing down the records spell names as they hear them they may have got it wrong. Take my surname Dobby as an example. I pronounce it Dob bie but one teacher I had at school always said it as Doe bie no matter how many times I corrected her as that was the way she read it. So if someone had heard her say my name and written it down it would have been wrong. In Scotland the more common form of spelling is Dobbie so there’s no common ground in spellings.
Also many of our ancestors couldn’t read or write so they spelt their names as they heard them and an accent could make this sound much different to how it should have been spelt. Take for example the surname Beckett. I’ve come across it spelt Becket, Bickett, Backett. If you consider them with a Yorkshire accent then they are all possible. So if you’re searching for an ancestor and you can’t find them then you need to consider where they lived and attempt to put an accent to the name to find other possible spellings.
But this doesn’t always follow. If your ancestors moved from where they lived then an accent local to the address they lived at may not have helped. Take my double great grandfather for example. He was Scottish coming from near Govan so he possibly had a thick Glasgow accent. He moved to Sunderland where it was a soft Geordie accent and then to the east end of London. All I can say is that it was a good job he was using the surname Smith by the time he got to London.
It’s not only accents though that may make life difficult for researchers. Throughout the country their will have been regional name variations which mean the same names were spelt differently. Take the surname Smith. In some places it is spelt Smyth. So although it is the same name it might not come up in the search results. This means you have to be creative in your thinking.
So if you take all of this into account then finding people may become easier, or harder as you may get so confused it’s unbelievable. Just because you spell your name one way now doesn’t mean your ancestors spelt it like that. They may have gone with the spelling the registrar used on a birth or marriage certificate, but as levels of literacy improved their decedents changed the spelling again. It in effect could have ended up like Chinese whispers where one name went in and another came out.
This week marks an anniversary in the history of King Henry VIII. On the 7th March 1530 King Henry VIII declared himself head of the Church of England and not the Pope. This signalled the beginning of the end of the Catholic Church being the religion of England.
So how did this all start? Quite simply, Henry VIII was besotted with Anne Bolyen and she wouldn’t become his mistress, only his wife. The only problem was he was already married to Queen Katherine of Aragon. So obviously Henry decided to divorce Katherine and marry Anne, simple. Except the Pope Clement VII decided he would not allow the divorce no matter how hard Henry tried. Henry used many arguments but the main 2 were that Katherine was his widowed sister in law and that they were related. Both were true, but he’d ignored them in the past.
On the 14 November 1501 Infanta Katherine of Aragon married Arthur, Prince of Wales at St Pauls Cathedral in London. The marriage was short lived as Arthur died in Ludlow on the 2nd April 1502. Katherine remained a widow until after the death of her father in law King Henry VII in April 1509. Days after his accession to the throne Henry VIII made it known of his intention to marry the dowager Princess of Wales and pair married on the 11 June 1509 at the Church of the Observant Friars near Greenwich Palace.
Henry initially began to think that his marriage to Katherine was wrong in the eyes of God as earlier as 1525. Henry stated that the bible forbade the marrying of your brother’s widow as this was incest so the marriage was not legal. Something he would later ignore. He also argued that he and Katherine were related so was illegal on the ground of consanguinity as both of them were descended from King Edward III of England’s son John of Guant.
Katherine was descended from John’s second wife Constance of Castille and Henry was descended for John’s third wife Katherine Swynford (although John and Katherine weren’t married when the Beaufort line was born, they were later legitimised by King Richard II). This made Katherine and Henry 4th cousins once removed. So by the same token Katherine and Arthurs marriage was illegal on the same grounds. The law of the Catholic Church though was 4 degrees which was the kinship bond of the couples. Unfortunately for Henry the Pope didn’t agree and refused to annul the marriage on either ground. This could possibly be because Katherine’s nephew was the Holy Roman Emperor and he had a great amount of power over the Pope.
After this failed Henry took matters into his own hands and declared England would separate from the Catholic Church and thus he could divorce Katherine in May 1533 and marry Anne Bolyen (in January 1533, cart before horse).
There were believed to be other reasons for the Henry to suddenly want a divorce from Katherine. The main one being Henry’s want of a son. Katherine had given birth to 3 sons. Henry Duke of Cornwall was born in January 1511, but he died in February of the same year. In 1513 and 1514 Katherine delivered stillborn sons. So maybe Henry thought a new wife would deliver him a healthy son, after all he had 1 acknowledged illegitimate son in Henry Fitzroy and possibly another son in Henry Carey they son of Mary Bolyen (although there is little evidence for this as Henry never acknowledged him).
It could also have been Katherine’s staunch religious views that lead to the divorce. Katherine was a strong believer of the Catholic faith whereas Henry was moving towards Protestantism.
In reality the split was probably a strong combination of Henry wanting a complete authority over the religious views of his country, a son and a divorce so he could marry Anne Bolyen. But he had used the argument about marrying his brother widow being classes as incest. He had had a relationship with Mary Bolyen and this could mean that a relationship with Anne was incest!
But did any of this change history? Well yes in that the Church of England as we know it today was born and the influence of Rome and the Pope removed. Anne Bolyen didn’t produce the male heir Henry so desperately wanted (she miscarried 2 sons) and she lost her head. Henry did get his longed for son Edward from his third wife Jane Seymour but it cost her her life and the Tudor dynasty Henry fought so hard for died out with his children.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the game where you have to name things you’ve never done. Well it got me thinking what our ancestors had done that we haven’t. So I decided to put some thought into it.
If you think about it there must be hundreds of things our ancestors did that we haven’t.
Well for starters let’s look at all the different occupations our ancestors had. On my paternal grandmothers side I am descended from a long line of farmers. I’ve never been on a proper working farm. I have absolutely no idea what it takes to run or work a farm. I know they were arable farmers and I’m sure they probably had a few animals for their own needs but I’ve no idea how to harvest a crop or milk a cow. If I was deposited on a farm and told to run it I’d name all the animals and tuck them up in individual beds with blankets and probably put hats on them and I wouldn’t have the heart to dig up the crops as I wouldn’t want to hurt them (I hate pruning in the garden for this reason).
On the same front I am descended from several dressmakers and milliners. Now I could make an attempt at making clothes and them being wearable as long as the pattern was easy, but the ladies who made really fancy dresses I bow down to as I wouldn’t know where to start. And as for hats I wouldn’t have a clue.
The same is true of my ancestors who were farriers, harness makers, coal miner, publicans, dentists, organists, knife blade makers and so on. I’m sure I could learn to do these things but then are the skills of some of these dying out.
Now consider your ancestors who set off in to the wild blue yonder to make a new life for themselves. Can you imagine the courage that took to leave all your family behind and start afresh elsewhere? It would be one thing if it was in the same country, but if it was abroad. They would have known little about where they were going and what to expect. We Google everything just to go on holiday so there are no surprises. They couldn’t. They just took a leap of faith and left everyone and everything behind. I’ve lived in 2 houses my entire life and they were only 4 miles apart.
Where your ancestors shop keepers? Yes I know people run shops today but with the Tinternet (Yorkshire of Internet) it must be easier. A Victorian shop keeper would probably have had a much more difficult time, especially in poorer areas as they would have had to wait to be paid for purchases and what they did have to sell would not have been much or of good quality. They shops were probably like Arkwight’s in Open all Hours. They could only sell what they had locally so if it wasn’t available you couldn’t sell it.
But it could be much more basic things your ancestors did that you never have. Did they got to tea dances, know how to work a range stove, bath in a tub in front of the fire and family, own an animal, go to the music halls, hear the first radio broadcast, witness and survive a war or own a grand house in the country and host garden parties? All of these experiences your ancestors had that you haven’t show us how life has changed and add history to your genealogy. They are not aside information they are a vital as a birth certificate or a census record as they give us a true feel as to who are ancestors were.
I’m sure you can probably think of many more things your ancestors did that you haven’t. Why not have a think and see what you can come up with.
And just so you know, I have seen the original Star Wars many times as it was on ever Christmas and my family always watched it. I preferred the Return of the Jedi as the Ewoks were cute!
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!