One thing I both love and hate about genealogy is the amount of information you can find out about your ancestor. With time, patience and skills you can find out where they lived, what they did and so much more. But you can’t find out everything as even within the family many things were never noted.
I got thinking about this when on Pinterest I saw a video of a little girl taking her first steps. Can you image being able to capture this momentous event for posterity. But for our ancestors we will never be able to find out this information as to when they took their first steps unless it’s recorded in an old family book or become folk law in the family.
So for the record I learnt to walk when I was 7 months old and used the Christmas tree to practice pull myself up and then I eventually toddled out of the sitting room. Needless to say in the practices the tree may have fallen down on me, but a piece of string to tie it to the radiator stopped that. First test flights usually have hiccups. I was tiny and am told I looked like a baby walking. The shoe shop had to specially order shoes for me as my feet were so small and I wanted to use my new skill as much as possible.
We may never know when our ancestors first walk, what their first words were, what they liked and disliked and even what they may have looked like. Now no amount of searching online will ever tell us when our ancestors took their first steps or said their first words. But is there information we think we may never know which may be available.
Well let’s start with the newspaper archive. They are a wonderful source of information. From the old averts for things which you would never get away with selling these days to the articles about sheep sales they are a wealth of information. So how can these help. Well in more local newspapers you may find a mention of one of your ancestors. If you read my blog on musical ancestors you’ll know I found a mention of a piano duet played by my twice great Grandad and his brother. This meant I could google the piece of music and here it being played. So I know the level of musical skill the brothers had. Another way is if they is a description of you ancestor. Maybe they were involved in something shady and a description was circulated so people could be on the lookout for them. Another way I have used the newspaper archive to learn more about my ancestors was when I found a description of a wedding day. The article described what the bride and bridesmaids wore and even what the mother of the both the bride and groom wore. The descriptions were fantastic and gave me a true insight into their special day.
Another great source for learning about our ancestors is military records. In all records will be a description of the soldier. It usually states their hair and eye colour, how tall they were and their chest measurements. Also if they have any scars or marks on their body this may be noted. So suddenly we can have an image of their build and colourings. Military records can also give you an indication of their character. Where they often on a charge, or did they have an exemplary service. Did they spend long periods in the hospital or even have more mental conditions. I once read a military record of a very distant ancestor in which the medical assessor described him as insane.
So although there are things about our ancestors we definitely will never be able to find out, there are things we can discover with time, skill and a whole lot of patience and sometimes a lot of look.
The SS Great Western was at the time the fastest way to cross the Atlantic Ocean. This meant that passengers could get from England to New York much faster. Thus emigrating to America would have been quicker for our ancestors.
So first a little about the ship. She was built by the Great Western Steamship Company owned by amongst others Isambard Kingdom Brunel. She was built at the Patterson and Mercer ship yard in Bristol. She was 76.8 metres long and 17.5 metres wide. She was an iron cladded wooden ship with 2 steam engines giving out 750 horse power which was used to power 2 side mounted paddle steamers. She also had 4 masts for sails just in case. In total she had 60 crew members to run the ship which could house 128 1st class passengers (with their 20 servants). On her maiden voyage leaving from Bristol on the 8th April 1838 she arrived in New York on the 23rd April. The Great Western was in service from 1838 until 1846 when she was sold after a number of incidents including a grounding to the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. She ended her life after the Crimean War where she had been used for troop transport.
Now I know the ship only transported 1st class passengers but she did open the doors to faster transatlantic travel. With a sail powered ship in the early Victorian period it could take up to 6 weeks to cross to America. SS Great Western did it in 15 days on average.
So what did this mean for our ancestors? Well for many 6 weeks to cross the Atlantic was far too long a prospect. It perhaps stopped them from making the journey to a new life. I know I wouldn’t want to be on a ship for that long, I’d have gone stir crazy. 4 and half hours to Jersey was enough for me thank you very much. Now with the advent of these new faster ships that meant that you could get to New York faster and faster. Admittedly it probably cost a lot more than going by sailing ship and initially probably only attracted the wealthier but things were heading in the right direction.
Now a lot of us will probably have ancestors who left our shores for America and Canada. I know I have. I have ancestors who left in the mid 1840’s on board the sailing ship Hottinguer. They were druggists (chemists) in England and moved to New York State to set up a successful business Hudson County. Now John and Hugh Wardle were just19 and 20 and from Leek, Staffordshire when they left so I would assume a first class ticket on board a steam ship was beyond their reach. But did they ever use a steam ship if they ever came back to England? (I don’t think they did as their mum was dead and their father died in New York State so he must have joined them).
But the advent of the steam ship didn’t just reduce sailing times across the Atlantic. You may have had ancestor who decided that Australia was they place they wanted to emigrate to. Warm sun, gorgeous beaches, wombats why not! But by sailing ship this was a voyage of around 4 months. 4 months of seasickness, cramped conditions and poor food, that probably wasn’t mentioned in the brochure. Enter the steamships. In 1888 the SS Australasian could get you from London to Sydney in just 50 days with 640 passengers on board.
So SS Great Western was the first of the steam ships built with the purpose of crossing the Atlantic and by doing so she paved the way for faster travel for our ancestors and thus made the prospect of emigrating to a new country and my quicker one.
Well it’s Mothering Sunday in the UK this weekend. This means I have, as is tradition in our family, made a card for my Mum. I’ve actually made 2 as I didn’t like the first one. But what is Mothering Sunday. Well for years I always believed it was the day we pampered our Mum’s, and it is, but not completely.
Traditionally Mothering Sunday is actually a religious thing which has morphed into what it is today. On Mothering Sunday people were encouraged to attend the service at the church they were baptised in. This could have meant a great deal of travelling to get there. As a side effect of this you may have returned to where your parents still lived and thus visited your mother. In many respects it was like a family reunion as most people were granted the day off work to return home. Even those in service would be given this day off.
I remember as a kid being given daffodils at Mothering Sunday Church Parade (I was a Brownie and then kicked out of the guides – a fact I am proud of!) to give to our Mum’s. This practice can from the fact people would pick the wildflowers on the way home to give to their mum. That why we still give our Mum’s flowers or as I always did made daffodils for my Mum.
So in truth what did this mean for your ancestors? Well it could have been a very long journey. I do wonder if people really undertook the trip home. My 4 times great Grandad was born in 1816 on the Isle of Wight. He lived in Sheffield so it was unlikely he was undertake the journey home. It’s around a 230 mile trip, and a boat journey. I believe a letter would have been the best way for him to contact his mother.
But it wasn’t just George Parkin who would have had to make long journeys especially in the Victorian era. It was a time of great industrialisation in the UK. People were leaving the countryside and moving to the towns where the new industries were developing. They were also moving around the country following their industry. If the coal field was fully excavated where you lived you move to the next one. That’s why when the coal seams in Wales ran out a lot of Welsh people moved to the north of England to follow the black gold. Where they really going to be able to travel back to where they came from for one day, in reality no. It would probably take them more than a day to get their and the same back. If you only had one day off it was impossible. It’s my belief that’s why Mothering Sunday changed to what it is today.
So in my family I think the award for the furthest they would have to travel goes to my twice great Grandfather George Harker Dow. George was born in Govan, Scotland in 1841. By 1881 he was living in Whitechapel in London. Door to door from their house in Whitechapel to Govan old church is 410 miles. I’d like to think George wouldn’t have made the journey. And anyway how would families decide who to visit. George’s wife Eleanor was from Sunderland. So would he have been expected to go to Govan and Eleanor to Sunderland? I suppose they may have gone to Sunderland as 2 of their children were from there, but one was born in London so did they leave him behind! You can see why the practice of visiting the mother church died out and it became more about telling you Mum you loved her instead.
So this Mother’s day pamper your Mum in the way you want. As I’ve said I’ve made the card and it’s F1 for Mum to watch and I may recreate the gourmet dinner I made her several years ago, cheese on toast.
We probably all have objects in our families that have been passed down through the generations that we treasure, but have you ever thought what they can tell you about your ancestors.
Heirlooms can take many forms from a book to a piece of furniture and everything in between.
We have my great Grandma’s perfume bottle that she kept in her handbag. It’s tiny, only a few centimetres tall and lives in a velvet box. It’s probably worth next to nothing but to the family it’s worth everything. After she died the bottle went to her only granddaughter and became a treasured connection to a much loved Grandma. It still smells vaguely of the perfume it carried and thus evokes a memory of the way she smelt. Thus it’s a tangible link to our ancestors.
We also have a bible that was given to my 3 times great Grandfather Peter Arnold Wardle who lived from 1845 to 1892. It was given to him by his grandmother Ellen Wardle nee Taylor who lived from 1797 to 1867. Now as a book again it’s worth very little and has spent all my life just sitting on various bookcases throughout the family never being looked at. In fact it was only in the last 5 or so years that I even realised the inscription was there let alone the significance of the book. But just think it’s the handwriting of my 5 times great Grandma. How cool is that to have the handwriting of someone born in the 18th century. Ellen also came from a rural area and her husband was a farmer so the fact that she could read and write is fantastic and I have to say her handwriting was so much better than mine.
We also have things which we own that we hope will become heirlooms for future generations. One of mine would be my baby rattle. I still have it and it’s even in one of the photo on my website.
So what other heirlooms may you have that can tell you a story?
Well it could be a piece of jewellery that has been passed down from mother to daughter throughout the generations. It may sit in a draw never being looked at, but it does tell a story. It could give an indication as to the wealth of your ancestors. If your ancestors were wealthy then it was probably a more ornate piece or the stones were of a better quality. It could also indicate the love the giver had for the recipient. If you come from humble stock and your ancestors saved for a long time to buy the piece it’s obvious they loved the person they gave it to deeply. This could be backed up by the fact that the piece has been handed down through the family. It’s not just jewellery though it could be a pocket watch or a wrist watch which was treasured by the men in your family. Also if the piece of jewellery was a bracelet you would get an indication as to the size of your ancestors. If they bracelet is small and will not fit you then you can guess that they were of a small delicate stature.
Your heirloom may be a bit bigger. It could be a piece of furniture that has been handed down through the generations. Maybe it’s a dresser or a chest of drawers. All of these can connect your to your past. When you put your clothes away in the chest of drawers you can imagine all the previous generations that have done the same thing. Also you can think about how different the garments you’re putting in the drawers will be different for before. In my case it would be jeans and hoodies whereas ancestors may have been putting corsets and bloomers in.
So the things we use every day like furniture and the things we have put away in a cabinet or a draw are a direct link to our ancestors and as such should be treasures for the direct link they give to use. Make sure to pass on the stories behind them or better still take a photograph of it and write the information on the back or make a book about all the heirlooms you have. Why not include a family tree in as well and some information about the original owner and in a sense make a new heirloom giving the history of your heirlooms.
I was going through my genealogy files the other day and found my grandparents marriage certificates and it got me thinking about how our ancestors met each other.
So I’ll start with the stories of my grandparents. My maternal grandparents
met in a way through my Grandpa’s work. Grandpa was a travelling excise officer. He was sent to Peterborough to the sugar and sweet factories. He took lodgings as was the norm. The daughter of his hosts was my Grandma. She was also the manageress of one of the sweet factories he was to visit. My paternal grandparents met as my Grandad was lodging with the mother in law of one of my Grandma’s uncles.
How else could our ancestors have met?
Well probably the most common way was that they grew up together, especially in more rural locations. The further back in time you go the less likely your ancestors were to move around. They probably stayed in one place all their lives unless they had to move for work. This meant they probably married one of the village girls or if they were lucky a new family may move in and they may have married a girl from an exotic place such as 5 miles away.
If your ancestors did travel to a new area for work this would have led to them meeting lots of new potential spouses. If they were the new person in town they would have been highly popular. My great, great grandfather moved to Worksop from Eckington. Here he took lodging at the pub just up the road from the Priory where he was the organist. Guess what he married the innkeepers daughter.
In the towns our ancestors may have met by going to a pub. Just imagine the films set in Victorian London such as Jack the Ripper. There is usually a pub scene. The wooden bars and tables, the piano being played in the corner and the dim lighting. The raucous laughter and singing of boardy songs. What better place than to meet the future spouse. In port towns there was the chance that you could meet a sailor from foreign climes in the pub. Maybe the daughter of a ship’s captain for the boys or the son for the girls. Maybe it led to your ancestor moving abroad or to another area of the country.
If you ancestors were from a more affluent background then maybe they met at a ball held at one of the grand homes or at the musical gatherings held at the theatres. They could have married the heir to one of the local grand houses next to theirs.
It wasn’t just the wealthier ancestors who may have met at the theatre though. There was the music hall performances held in the theatres all over the country. Here your ancestors may have met. It was a lively place and they would have had a great time. The ladies may also have been able to catch the eye of a gentleman who had ventured into the town to see the latest acts.
Dances were a prime hunting ground for finding a partner no matter what walk of life you came from. Be it the big balls of the grand houses or the village hall they would have been packed full of your people. They were available to all. Again in the port towns they were have been good places to meet those from far off lands. Over time the dances would develop and during WW2 they were great places to meet members of the armed forces from abroad. How may have a GI bride in their ancestry who went of the USA after the war with their new husband, or have a Caribbean ancestor who settled in the UK.
So no matter where your ancestors came from they will have a story as to how they met their spouse. We may never how some of them met but we need to record the stories we do know so that future generations know the stories and their lives will live on into the future.
On the 11th March 1864 the then town of Sheffield suffered from a devastating flood which brought death and destruction. But what caused it?
Well in basic terms the dam wall at the Dale Dyke dam failed sending the contents of the newly constructed reservoir crashing down the valley straight for the town.
The Dale Dyke dam wall failed whilst it was being filed for the first time. The night the wall failed Sheffield was hit by a gale which caused the water to put excess pressure on the newly finished dam wall. The dam engineer John Gunson was onsite on the night of the collapse. It’s said that he noticed the crack and opened the values to reduce the pressure on the wall in an attempt to stop a collapse. However the wall failed and approximately 3 million cubic metres of water rushed out of the reservoir and into the Loxley valley. Now if you’re like me that figure means nothing but in terms of pints of beer that’s 5,279,261,959. The water swept through the north of the town from the west to the east. The flood hit the areas of Loxley, Malins Bridge and Hillsborough first following the path of the river Loxley. Loxley at the time actually wasn’t in Sheffield as the town hadn’t grown out that far yet. It was an industrial area down in the valley being home to several trip hammers and rolling mills. One was owned by the Chapman family. When the flood hit the mill and hammer were lost and 5 members of the family died along with around 12 other people in the area.
Hillsborough was next where around 42 people died as the water took everything in its path. The water then carried on down the river valley and the turned where the Loxley joins the river Don. This took the water straight towards the industrial areas of the city. For anyone who knows the city today that where Kelham Island museum and the Wicker Archers are. This took the water through Neepsend and Shalesmoor on towards Attercliffe. This area was highly populated at the time and so the loss of life was great.
In total the disaster claimed the lives of around 240 people of all ages. The youngest recorded death shows a baby Dawson of just 2 days old. Many of the victims were never found as the water took them away. Some bodies were even found the other side of Rotherham in the areas of Kilnhurst and Swinton some 14 miles away. Also the flood destroyed and damaging around 600 homes and washing away the houses contents. There was also the loss of animals and crops and infrastructure such as the bridges over the rivers Loxley and Don.
The people of the town has raised around £42,000 (around £2.5 million in today’s terms) to help those in need. Also an act of parliament meant that the people of the town could make claims against the Sheffield Water Company who had built the reservoir for loss of property and life as well as for injuries.
As always a court case ensued and John Gunson got the blame, although the water company stood by him and kept him in the company until he died. The dam was rebuilt in in the 1870’s and is still there today. If you want to go it’s near Bradfield on Strines Moor just of the A57 not far from the reservoirs in the Derwent Valley.
This is where the flood becomes kind of personal to me. My family lived around the Hillsborough area. In November of 1864 my 3 times great Grandparents Charles Beckett and Eliza Parkin married at St Philips church in Shalesmoor. The church obviously survived, but were they affected in any way. Did the loose friends? My research doesn’t indicate they lost any family and there are no familiar names in the lists of the dead which is part of the fantastic research carried out by Karen Lightowler in conjunction with Sheffield City Council and Sheffield Hallam University. You can see the research here: https://www2.shu.ac.uk/sfca/ . It is a fantastic resource. The claims section does show that Charles Becket did make a claim for loses though. He was a quarry man and claimed £13 (around £812 today) for loses of personal possession such as tables and chairs but also the tools he used in the quarry such as his hammers and picks. He was awarded only £9. Also there were claims made by who I believe to be my 4 times great Grandfather George Parkin and by 2 members of the Elshaw family who I must be related to as we are all descended from one man.
So the flood left a trail of devastation in its wake that would change the town and wiped out entire families such as the Chapmans who lost a mother, father and 3 sons. But out of the devastation it gave us genealogists and fantastic insight into our ancestor’s lives as we can read the claims for loses and get a feel for how they lived and how the flood impacted on our lives.
How many of us have an old recipe book on the bookcase. It’s probably in a worse for wear condition with the cover falling off and bits of paper sticking out from every angle. It can give you an insight into the lives of your ancestors.
By looking at the recipes it can give you an insight into what foods your ancestors could afford to make and also what they liked to eat. It could also give you an insight into their kitchen as the more complicated the recipe the more kitchen equipment they may have needed so this may indicate they were from a wealthier background. These books can also span the generations as they are passed down from mother to daughter (or father to son). There are at least 5 different handwriting's in one of my family recipe book.
I’m lucky as I have access to my Grandma’s recipe book and my great Grandma’s.
So let’s look at the recipes inside.
Well in the main meals section we find a recipe for a meat mould which is sausage meat and corn beef mixed with a tomato and an egg all mixed together. Then it is steamed for 45 mins. Then there’s a Christmas pate which involves leftover turkey and lots of butter. There is also a terrine made with bacon, veal, port, liver and chicken liver, gross, I’ll just eat the bacon thanks.
The books also packed with recipes for chutneys, soups and pickles. Then it’s my favourite the cake and puddings section - boiled fruit cake my absolute favourite. This section does give a big clue about family life. There are lots of low sugar and diabetic recipes. This indicates someone suffered from diabetes and they did. It also shows how times have changed. There are recipes for jams and curds. I know some people still make them but many do just go to the shops and buy them.
Recipe books can also show regional foods. Now this would be seriously confusing in Grandmas recipe book. She was born and raised in Northamptonshire. He mum was from Cambridgeshire and her grandma was from Lincolnshire. Add into that her dad was from Nottinghamshire and the fact that she and grandpa travelled all over the country before settling in Yorkshire. Your family recipe book may offer better clues as to where their origins lie. One example of regional foods in grandma’s recipe book is for Yorkshire parkin. For those who don’t know it’s a spiced cake made with oats, treacle and ginger. Here’s the recipe, try it’s gorgeous.
If you consider my great Grandma’s recipe book then this too will have a hodge podge of regional recipes. She was born in Sunderland but raised in London. Her mother was from Sunderland but her dad was Scottish.
You may also find some really bizarre recipes. I took to the internet to see what other recipes I could find from peoples recipe books.
How’s this for a delicious recipe, stewed sparrows anyone. This 18th century recipe calls for boiling the sparrows in ale and water. Put 3 egg yolks, verjuice (made from unripe grapes, crab-apples or other sour fruit) cinnamon and ginger and stir. Add the sparrows to the sauce. I think I’ll give that one a miss.
One which maybe you can try next Christmas, picked turkey anyone.
If you try this recipe let me know how bad it is. Picked meat sound disgusting, but I suppose it preserved the meat so it would keep longer and could be used when fresh food stocks were low. It could have kept the entire family going when there was nothing else available.
If you have an old recipe book in the family why not play make a recipe. Just open the book and if you like the ingredients in the recipe on that page, and if you can still get them, make it and see what it’s like. If your ancestors took the time to write it down then maybe it was a family favourite. Who knows maybe it will become a future family favourite to another generation of the family.
When it comes to genealogy we gather all the information on our ancestors and store it either on our computers or in folders, but what do we do with it then. Over the years I’ve seen many articles describing how to store genealogy and I want to give you a feel of some creative ways to display your family.
Most of us will be familiar with the concepts of photos of our family on the wall but I’ve seen some fantastic alternatives to just having a line of photos.
You could go down a more traditional route. Once you’ve completed your tree, (does this ever happen?) you could decide to create an ancestry chart. I’m sure you’ve seen them. You can get them that go back a number of generations. On these you can write the name of your ancestors and on some you can add vital information such as birth, death and marriage. You can make these and print them out form your genealogy software or you can buy them and fill them in yourselves. I’ve got a 10 generation chart which one day I will fill in and frame. You can get great charts from My History, a wonderful genealogy supply company in South Yorkshire (my home county). You can see these at: https://www.my-history.co.uk/acatalog/Blank_Family_Tree_Charts.html
You could also go down the route of having you tree printed professionally. This can be printed in huge sizes so if you’ve got a massive tree you could have each side of your family printed out and framed. Each side could then be hung on your wall with a photo of the starting person in the middle. There are many companies that can do this including My History.
One of the best I’ve seen involved a drawing of a tree on the wall. On to this was placed photos of ancestors with a name plate underneath. On the plate was the person’s vital information. Now I know we’re not all that creative as to be able to draw a tree on our sitting room wall. You can buy massive stick on tree decals which you can put on the wall. On to this you could either stick photos of your ancestors or hang photos in frames on the wall in strategic places on the wall. I saw this done on the wall of a stair case so the tree started at the bottom of the stairs and the branches went up the wall to the upstairs. On it were the photos on the person’s ancestors.
It doesn’t have to be a permanent display of your ancestors. You can display your ancestry in books. You could make yourself a scrapbook to display your ancestry. You can get as creative as you like. You can add background papers, photos and information on your ancestors. You can also add embellishments relevant to your ancestors and family stories to help bring their lives to life for future generations.
You could write a book about your ancestors. I’m not talking about a novel, although you could, but more their lives story. You could fill it with stories of their lives, photos and all the information about them. In some ways this is much the same as the scrapbook idea but it could contain more information. You can include copies of your evidence such as certificate and census returns.
So why not make this year the year you pull all of your ancestors together so you can easily look at them and read all the information you have. It may help you to connect with them more easily and also make them accessible to other members of your family.
I really believe that children need to learn about their ancestors. These days we don’t live close together as families like our ancestors did and so were may not know as much about our forebears.
So since its Christmas time there is a good chance that families will be getting together and meeting up with family members they haven’t seen in ages. Kids tend to get bored at these gatherings. So why not set them the challenge of finding out more about their ancestors.
I remember as a kid having to ask questions of my Grandpa as part of a school project. I had a sheet with my questions on and Grandpa wrote down his answers in my Fraggle Rock note book as I sat with him in his bedroom and asked the questions.
I was trying to decide what the questions were and I think they must have been:
1. Where did you live growing up?
2. How many rooms were there in your house?
3. How many bedrooms did your house have?
4. Who lived in the house?
6. What was used for cleaning the house?
7. How did you do the washing?
8. How was the house heated?
9. What was there in the kitchen?
10. What furniture did you have in your bedroom?
11. What was in the bathroom?
12. What furniture was in the sitting room?
So from here I decided to compile a list of questions children could ask their parents, grandparents and if their lucky enough great grandparents (I was lucky I knew both my paternal great grandma’s).
1. What is your full name?
2. When and where were you born?
3. Did you have a nick name?
4. What were your parent’s names?
5. When were your parent’s dates of birth?
6. Where were your parents born?
7. What were your siblings called and when and where were they born?
8. Where did you live?
9. Where did you go to school?
10. What was you highest qualification?
11. Who did you marry?
12. Where did you meet your spouse?
13. When did you get married?
14. Who were your bridesmaids and best man?
15. Did you have any children?
16. What did you do for a living?
17. Who were your grandparents?
18. When and where were they born?
19. What were their occupations?
20. Did you know your Great Grandparents?
21. What can you tell me about them?
22. When and where did they die?
23. Where were they buried or cremated?
They could take a list of questions with them to the family gathering and ask away. Once they’ve got all their answers they could spend the rest of Christmas writing the story of their ancestors. Or they could have one of the many blank ancestor forms from the Internet download and printed and then file them in. There is a great selection at: https://www.cyndislist.com/free-stuff/printable-charts-and-forms/
They could also have a blank family tree printed out and filed in or even better make one. All you need to do is draw a tree and place small printed out photos of your ancestors and stick them on. Then write their names underneath. Alternatively use one of the many blank family trees which can be printed out that don’t have photos on.
Who knows what impact going through this process may have on the kids. They may develop an interest in genealogy. This may lead to a lifelong passion for the subject and who knows where they may end up. They may up being a professional genealogist like me. This could also lead them to a passion for history in general as a hobby and it’s well know a knowledge of the past can help in future.
Another quick thought is to get a cheap diary and get the kids to write all the birth, marriages and deaths of their ancestors in it so they can wish a happy birthday to them.
So enjoy Christmas however you spend it and if you can get some genealogy into it then that’s brilliant.
Merry Christmas to all for Family History Research England.
On the 2nd December 1697 the new St Paul’s Cathedral in London was consecrated after being rebuilt following the great fire of London in 1666. This new building is believed to be the 5th church to stand on this site. If you had any London based ancestors they may have seen the Cathedral being built and have witness the opening day.
The old St Paul’s cathedral was begun in 1087 after the previous building was destroyed by fire. It took until 1240 for the building to be completed and consecrated. The church was built in the gothic style and had features including pointed arches and large window. It’s most impressive feature was said to be the wooden vaulted ceiling. The building was not maintained over the years and by the time of King Henry VIII (1509 -1547) the church was in disrepair. The old St Paul’s suffered during the reformation (1536-1541) when all the iconography and shrines were removed. Then next tragedy to befall the Cathedral came in 1561 when the spire was struck by lightning and destroyed. Then came the year 1666.
During the great fire of London much of London was destroyed by the fire including 87 religious buildings. St Paul’s was gutted in the fire as the wooden ceiling acted as a wick to move the fire throughout the building. The decision was made to rebuild the Cathedral rather than repair.
Once the decision to rebuild was made plans were submitted for the new building. The winning entry came from Christopher Wren, the man who just before the fire was given the job of renovating the old St Paul’s and who was to rebuild many of the other lost churches in London. He was commissioned in 1669. By 1670 the old building was being removed and the site cleared. In 1675 building work began on the new Cathedral. The building wasn’t finished until 1711, but the statues on the outside of the building were not installed until the 1720’s.
St Paul’s Cathedral has some impressive statistics. The building is 158m long, at its widest point the transept it is 75m and the height of the building to the top of the dome is 111m. The dome itself is really impressive with it being the second largest dome in the world after the dome of St Peter’s in Rome, Italy. The diameter of the dome is 34m and you can go up to the base of the dome on what is called the whispering gallery. On this walk way if you stand against the wall and whisper something it can be heard on the other side of the dome perfectly.
The Cathedral has 12 bells and 3 bells for the clock. The largest clock bell is Big Tom which is rung on the death of a member of the Royal Family. It was last rung in 2002 when Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother died.
The final cost of the rebuild was stated in 1719 as £1,095,556 which in today’s terms is about £127,202,268 and would probably have cost millions more.
The Cathedral was hit twice by bombs in WW2 with damage to the alter area and the north transept. It’s survival during the war gave hope to the city that London would survive.
There have been over 200 people buried or commemorated in the crypt of the cathedral. Probably the most famous is that of Sir Christopher Wren himself. His memorial plaque is just genius. It reads ‘Reader if you seek his monument, look around you’. I suppose what better memorial to the man than his own designed Cathedral. Also buried in the cathedral include The Duke of Wellington and Admiral Lord Nelson. The funeral of Winston Churchill was also held in the Cathedral.
So St Paul’s Cathedral may not be the main church of London, that’s Westminster Abbey, but it is the one we know the most about as we have pictures and records of it being built. We can see the original plans Wren submitted and can see the records of what was used to build it.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my Family History Ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!