Now we’ve all heard of the great fire of London which happened in 1666, but have you ever considered how it would affect your family history research?
I’ll start with some background. The fire started on the 2nd September 1666 in Pudding Lane, London which was only a few streets north of the river Thames. The fire started in a bakery and raged within the old city walls of the city from the Strand to the Tower of London and as far north as the Guildhall until the 6th September. During this time hundreds of people were made homeless and had to flee the city. Surprisingly only 6 people are reported to have died in the fire. Also in the fire the plague rats died!
Now here is where the fire impacts of family history research. 89 parish churches were lost in the fire including St Pauls. 35 of these churches were never rebuilt.
So what does this mean to family historians? Well it means you have to readjust what you know. The fire resulted in people having to move from the area they lived in. So if you have been happily tracing your family back through one church in London and then you can’t find anymore ancestors it may be because they were new to the church just after 1666.
So what do you do? Well the best place to start is probably to find out which parish churches were lost in the fire and find out which ones were closest to where your ancestors lived after 1666. Although this will not give you an accurate indication of where they moved from, it may help. Families may have wanted to stay as close as possible to where they lived and worshiped before as they worked in the area. On the other hand they may have move away as they needed housing and where they worked may have been destroyed in the fire.
So how do you overcome this? Well don’t just focus on the immediate area. If you can’t find what you’re looking for expand your search. Also focus on what you know. If you ancestors were having children baptised at a church from a certain date but you haven’t found the couple’s marriage there then maybe they had to move church because it was lost in the fire. So from here you need to look around the other churches. Also make a note of any occupations listed on the children’s baptisms. This can help you if you find a couple with the same names in another church. If the man has the same occupation then there is a chance it is your ancestors. This may not always follow though as they may have had to change job after the fire. If your ancestors have an unusual surname then it is relatively easy to find where they came from. Sorry to anyone with the name Smith as this will be difficult, but congratulation if you have got back this far, you are a genealogy hero.
It has not been only the great fire of London that has caused problems like this. There have been many disasters over the years that may have resulted in your family having to move. If you have ancestors from Sheffield you may suddenly find them disappearing as you go back. What may people don’t know is that in 1864 Sheffield had a “great flood” when a newly built dam wall cracked and the town was flooded. 240 people died and over 600 homes were lost. If your ancestors seem to suddenly appear in say north Sheffield it could be they came from west Sheffield where the destruction occurred.
The same moving of your ancestors could also have happened if they were miners. Over the years they have been many mining disasters which may have led to the closures of the pit. Your ancestors may have had to move to new coal filed to get new jobs and so all of a sudden the Northumberland family you thought you had is now in Yorkshire.
So although we don’t like to think about disasters such as the great fire they do have an influence on our research as they change the lives of our ancestors. So remember it may not be a brick wall you’ve hit, it may be relocation.
They say that our homes are our castles, but what do we really know about the history of our homes. Just by looking at them we can take a rough guess about when they were built but that’s about it. Can you find out more about the actual building and those who have lived in it?
Well the answer is yes, up to a point. You see it depends on the age of the house and where it is. And for the record it doesn’t matter if your home is a stately home, although that would be so much easier as there are probably records already existing within the building.
The best place to start is by looking at the age of the house. In most cases you can make a good guess by looking at the architecture of the building. If there are art deco features to the property then there is a chance you house was built in the 1920’s.
You should also consider the deeds of the house. Most people don’t actually have the deeds in their house, but the solicitor who assisted in the purchase of the house may have them. These may potentially give you an exact date for the building of the house. If you haven’t got access to the deeds you can always search the land registry for them.
The next place to look is on the census. You can search by address to find your house. From here the amount of information you can find is huge and frustrating. Your house may be on the census under a different number as more houses were built later, no house numbers may be given and streets can also change name as the road I grew up on but luckily the roadside said the old name.
The census can help you find out who used to live in the house. This can give you an insight into how many people may have lived in the house at one time. You may be surprised how many people were crammed into the space. In my parents first home on the 1911 census there were 6 adults living there. There were 2 adults and a baby when my parents were there. If you follow the census back you can find out when the property first showed up and thus this can help you establish at least a decade for when the house was built if previous research through the deeds hasn’t helped.
The census can also give you an insight into how the house’s fortunes may have changed. It may be that when the house was built it was lived in by a working class family but over the years the family may have become middle class or it may have stayed the same.
If we consider the Victorian house I grew up in built around the 1880’s, in 1901 the owner was the owner of a stay manufacturing company and lived with his wife and 2 grown up daughters. By 1936 (as found from a death notice) the house was in the hands of the 1901 owners Son in Law. On the 1939 census the house was owned by a steelworks engineer who lived there with his wife and 3 children. When my grandparents purchased the house in 1960 it became owned by an Officer of Her Majesty’s Custom and Excise and had 4 occupants. By the end of the 1970’s there were 5 of us spread over 3 generations.
Another way to find out information about your house is the newspaper archive. You can search for the street name and town and see what you can find out. This is how I found out who owned my childhood home in 1936.
If you live in a more modern house don’t despair. You can still research the area your house was built in. Old maps will show you what was there before you house was built. Where I live now and as a child would have been fields, but you may find there used to be mines or some other form of industry.
So it doesn’t matter whether you live in a stately home or a small terrace house, there is a chance you can find out about the families who lived there before you and how the area has changed. But remember it’s not always that easy and some people make researching a property their lives work and others make a living out of doing this.
Last week I looked at the link between how knowing which monarch was on the throne and can help you discover more about the lives of your ancestors by showing you what was happening in the world around them. Even though the lives of your ancestors may have been completely different from the monarchs major events may have impacted upon them.
This week I’m looking at the monarchs of Scotland from 1066 to 1603 (I’m starting at 1066 to be in line with the English). You need to remember that the succession in Scotland for the throne is different from England in that war and murder were often ways to trigger a change of monarch. Also the English sometimes influenced the succession with Edward I (1272-1307) placing pressure on the Scots.
Malcolm III. Reigned 1058 – 13th November 1093. Successor: Donald III his brother.
Donald III. Reigned 13th November 1093 – May 1094. Successor: Duncan II, son of Malcolm III.
Duncan II. Reigned 1094 – 12th November 1094 (murdered). Successor: Donald III, son of Malcolm III.
Donald III. Reigned 12th November 1094 – 1097. Successor: Edgar, son of Malcolm III.
Edgar. Reigned 1097 – 8th January 1107 (Murdered?). Successor: Alexander I, son of Malcolm III.
Alexander I. Reigned 8th January 1107 – 23rd April 1124. Successor: David I, son of Malcolm III.
David I. Reigned 23rd April 1124 – 24th May 1153. Successor: Malcolm IV, grandson of David I.
Malcolm IV. Reigned 24th May 1153 – 9th December 1165. Successor: William I, grandson of David I.
William I. Reigned 9th December 1165 – 4th December 1214. Successor: Alexander II, son of William I.
Alexander II. Reigned 4th December 1214 – 6th July 1249. Successor: Alexander III, son of Alexander II.
Alexander III. Reigned 6th July 1249 – 19th March 1286. Successor: Margaret, granddaughter of Alexander III.
Margaret. Reigned 25th November 1286 – 26th September 1290. Successor: John who was chosen by claim.
John. Reigned 17th November 1292 – 10th July 1296 (abdicated). Successor: Robert I through battle and claim.
Robert I (the Bruce). Reigned 25th March 1306 – 7th June 1329. Successor: David II, son of Robert I.
David II. Reigned 7th June 1329 – 22 February 1371. Successor: Robert II, grandson of Robert I.
Robert II. Reigned 22 February 1371 – 19th April 1390. Successor: Robert III, son of Robert II.
Robert III. Reigned 19th April 1390 – 4th April 1406. Successor: James I, son of Robert III.
James I. Reigned 4th April 1406 – 21st February 1437. Successor: James II, son of James I.
James II. Reigned 21st February 1437 – 3rd August 1460. Successor: James III, son of James II.
James III. Reigned 3rd August 1460 – 11th June 1488. Successor: James IV, son of James III.
James IV. Reigned 11th June 1488 – 9th September 1513 (died in battle). Successor: James V, son of James IV.
James V. Reigned 9th September 1513 – 14th December 1542. Successor: Mary, daughter of James V.
Mary (Queen of Scots). Reigned 14th December 1542 – 24th July 1567 (abdicated. Executed by Queen Elizabeth I of England 8th February 1587). Successor: James VI, son of Queen Mary.
James VI. Reigned 24th July 1567 – 27th March 1625. To Monarchy of Great Britain.
After the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England the throne passed to her 1st cousin twice removed James VI of Scotland and he became James I of Great Britain.
James VI was the great, great grandson of King Henry VII of England. Henry’s eldest daughter Margaret Tudor was married to James IV of Scotland thus combining the Stuart house of Scotland with the Tudor house of England and giving us the royal family we have today.
Many of you will know that I am fascinated with the monarch, but many of you may not realise how much of an impact knowledge of the monarchy can have on your research. If you know who was monarch when your ancestors were alive you can read about what was happening in the country and thus how it may have been affecting your ancestors. So in this vein here is my list of the Monarch of England.
Edward the Confessor. Reigned 8th June 1042 to 1st May 1066. Successor: Harold Godwinson, brother in law of Edward who claimed Edward named him heir.
Harold Godwinson. Reigned 6th January 1066 to 14th October 1066 died in battle. Successor: William the Conqueror who claimed to be Edward the Confessors names heir and William defeated Harold at the Battle of Hastings.
William I, the Conqueror. Reigned 14th October 1066 – 9th September 1087. Successor: William II his son.
William II. Reigned 9th September 1087 – 2nd August 1100 possibly murdered. Successor: Henry I his brother.
Henry I. Reigned 2nd August 1100 – 1st December 1135. Successor: Stephen the grandson of William I who may have usurped the throne.
Stephen. Reigned 22nd December 1135 – 7th April 1141. Successor: Matilda, daughter of Henry I.
Matilda. Reigned 7th April 1141 – 1st November 1141. Successor: Stephen.
Stephen. Reigned 1st November 1141 – 25th October 1154. Successor: Henry II son of Matilda.
Henry II. Reigned 25th October 1154 – 6th July 1189. Successor: Richard I the Lionheart, son of Henry II.
Richard I. Reigned 6th July 1189 – 6th April 1199. Successor: John, brother of Richard I.
John. Reigned 6th April 1199 – 19th October 1216. Successor: Henry III, John’s son.
Henry III. Reigned 19th October 1216 – 16th November 1272. Successor: Edward I, son of Henry III.
Edward I. Reigned 16th November 1272 – 7th July 1307. Successor: Edward II, son of Edward I.
Edward II. Reigned 7th July 1307 – 24th January 1327. Successor: Edward III, son of Edward II.
Edward III. Reigned 24th January 1327 – 21st June 1377. Successor: Richard II, grandson of Edward III.
Richard II. Reigned 21st June 1377 – 29th September 1399. Successor: Henry IV, grandson of Edward III.
Henry IV. Reigned 30th September 1399 – 20th March 1413. Successor: Henry V, son of Henry IV.
Henry V. Reigned 20th March 1413 – 31st August 1422. Successor: Henry VI, son of Henry V.
Henry VI. Reigned 31st August 1422 – 4th March 1461. Successor: Edward IV, great grandson of Edward III by usurpation.
Edward IV. Reigned 4th March 1461 – 3rd October 1470. Henry VI, son of Henry V.
Henry VI. Reigned 3rd October 1470 – 11th April 1471. Successor: Edward IV, great grandson of Edward III, by usurpation.
Edward IV. Reigned 11th April 1471 – 9th April 1483. Successor: Henry VI, son of Henry V.
Edward V. Reigned 9th April 1483 – 25th June 1483 (disappeared possibly murdered). Successor: Richard III brother of Edward IV.
Richard III. Reigned 25th June 1483 – 22 August 1485 (died at the Battle of Bosworth). Successor: Henry VII, great, great, great grandson of Edward III, by usurpation.
Henry VII. Reigned 22 August 1485 – 21 September 1509. Successor: Henry VIII, son of Henry VII.
Henry VIII. Reigned 21st September 1509 – 28th January 1547. Successor: Edward VI, son of Henry VIII.
Edward VI. Reigned 28th January 1547 – 6th July 1553. Successor: Lady Jane Grey, granddaughter of Henry VII.
Jane Grey. Reigned 10th July 1553 - 19th July 1553 (deposed). Successor: Mary I, daughter of Henry VIII.
Mary I. Reigned 19th July 1553 – 17th November 1558. Successor: Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII.
Elizabeth I. Reigned 17th November 1558 – 24th March 1603. Successor: James I and VI, great, great grandson of Henry VII.
This brings to an end the walk through the English monarch from 1066 until 1603. After this period the monarchies of England and Scotland combined to become the monarchs of Great Britain.
Coming soon I’ll do the same for the Monarchs of Great Britain from 1603 to the present.
Many of us will be familiar with the fantastic TV show Dads Army which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month. For those that don’t well the show is set during WW2 in the fictitious sleepy seaside town of Walmington on Sea which is on the south coast. The show is based around the Home Guard unit which was established after the announcement by the government that they needed man under and over the age of enlistment to protect the home front. The show follows the platoon as they attempt to protect the town from the German’s, who they only come across once. In reality they town usually needs protecting from the platoon and Captain Mainwarings idea. It stared such acting greats as Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier, Clive Dunn, John Laurie, Arnold Ridley, James Beck, Ian Lavender and Bill Pertwee, many of who were well know actors who took on rolls in Shakespeare and even wrote plays (Arnold Ridley wrote the Ghost Train).
The home guard was a genuine branch of the army and was established in July 1940 when the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV) changed their name to the Home Guard.
So when did the LDV begin? On the 14th May 1940 the war secretary Anthony Eden made a broadcast calling for men not in military service between the ages of 17 and 65 to take up arms to protect their town from the threat from German paratroopers and a possible invasion of the home front. By July 1940 over 1.5 million men had signed up.
In the beginning the LDV were poorly equipped with whatever they could get their hands on. They really did have carving knives tied to broom handles and pitch forks. In the episode of Dad’s Army called museum piece the platoon go to the local museum to requisition weapons but only end up with a Chinese rocket launcher from the Boxer rebellion as the guns have been taken by Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) who went about entertaining the troops. Needless to say the rocket launcher goes off and bring some of the roof of the church hall (where the platoon meets) down. The reason I mention this is because it really did happen. The LDV were getting weapons from anywhere. They were even using guns the members had brought back from WW1.
They were also patrolling the area without uniforms. Over the years the LDV, which became the Home Guard in July 1940, were drip fed uniform. They started out with just an LDV armband and gradually gained more uniform until they eventually had a full recognisable military uniform.
After 1943 the Home guard began to get formal training from the military and they were given weapons the army no longer needed or had taken from the enemy. If you want to see how Dad’s Army portrayed the training the Home Guard received then the original Dad’s Army film and the series 3 episode called Battle School are the ones to watch.
The Home Guard continued until the 3rd December 1944 when they were stood down and they were finally disbanded on the 31st December 1945. During this time over 1200 of the Home Guard members died as a result of the war. They were mainly killed as a result of air raids, although some did die in training exercises.
They were portrayed in a comedy way through Dad’s Army, and one of the writers Jimmy Perry based it on his experience as a young lad in the Home Guard. They really were a bunch of men from all walks of life who came together in the country’s hour of need. Yes there were men for who the Home Guard became their life and sole focus. Men like Captain Mainwaring and Captain Square probably did exist, and there were certainly plenty of the Home Guard who had served in WW1, but they did make a difference. They watched out for air raids and did fire watching.
They really did make a difference to the country, and through the TV show introduced me to a branch of the army I may never know existed, and gave me great memories of watch the show with my Grandpa.
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!