Monday, 31 January 2011

Legitimacy Act 1926

Came across an interesting fact about illegitimacy the other day.  It concerned the Legitimacy Act of 1926 (effective from 1st January 1927), which stated that the subsequent marriage of an illegitimate child's parents legitimised the child's birth - provided that the parents would have been free to marry when the child was born (i.e. neither was married to a third party).

By close examination of the wording of the Act itself (here), it is clear that this not only applied to children born after the 1st January 1927, but also to children alive at the time who would have previously been considered to have been illegitimate ... provided that their parents did at some point marry after their birth, of course.  When this occurred, in theory at least, the legitimised birth was re-entered in the birth indexes for that year - sometimes many years after the original birth, of course.  The original entry would be annotated, too.

So, little Johnny born outside of wedlock in 1915, his parents marry in 1920, Act passed, and little Johnny is legitimised from 1st January 1927 (and not from 1920).  However, big Bertha born outside of wedlock in 1932, parents marry in 1936, so big Bertha legitimised from 1936.

It should be noted that those born illegitimately prior to the Act and who also died prior to the Act, remained officially illegitimate no matter what their parents did, marriage-wise.

The Act was introduced primarily to deal with inheritance issues, and was amended most notably in 1959 which extended the legitmisation process to children whose parent(s) had been married to somebody else when they were born (and therefore not able to marry each other at the time) but married later on - in other words, children of adulterers.

There.  Now you know.  Finding this out means that both my own father and grandfather, who both entered this world before their parents' respective marriages, had their births legitimised by subsequent events.  No scandal there then (ahem).

Sunday, 30 January 2011



Whether you're off to the forthcoming Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011 event next month or not, you can't seem to avoid news about it at the moment.  I should imagine the latest issue of the WDYTYA? magazine (just out) will be giving it a good airing - and I understand they have an event guide as a pull-out, too (the 'free' CD also includes plenty of interest to those of you with East Yorkshire interests).  The Wandering Genealogist also has some tips for the event - see his entries of 21st & 28th January.

The latest edition of S&N Genealogy's E-Newsletter also has plenty to say about the coming event - but there are a good few other bits and pieces worth taking in, too, so give it a glance.


OK, I may be a bit late with this one, but there's still some benefit to be gained by the following TV/radio guide for the week, here.


Death of...
Gandhi, aged 78, in 1948, in New Delhi.

1649:  Charles I is executed.  Twelve years to the day later, Oliver Cromwell's exhumed body is subjected to posthumous execution.
1933;  Adolf Hitler is sworn in as German Chancellor.
1965:  State funeral of Sir Winston Churchill.
1972:  'Bloody Sunday', Londonderry.  14 die as a result of the Army opening fire during a civil protest.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Digi-downloads & Podcasts


Your Family Tree Magazine is celebrating its 100th issue very soon (1st Feb) - and is marking the event by going digital.  If you think you might be interested in getting your issue a little earlier than everybody else, as well as saving a fair bit of cash, then keep an eye on their website.  Their Facebook page has already released the digi subscription information.

Two new podcasts are now available:-
Journeys of Discovery: Surgeons at Sea ADM101 Research Symposium (TNA);
BBC History Magazine Podcast, Feb 2011 (Black Death, the life of Sir Walter Raleigh and the challenges involved in writing a history of Jerusalem).

The Guild of One-Name Studies has agreed with the Mormon's FamilySearch website that upon searching for a surname on the new FamilySearch website, users will find relevant contact details for GOONS members flagged. Though Guild members can opt out of the scheme, most will be pleased to have the opportunity of expanding their studies via this novel avenue.  Should be in place from February.


Those of you with an interest in the deepest recesses of Scottish history, may wish to peruse the Paradox of Medieval Scotland site, whose aim is to provide freely-available biographical information of all known people in Scotland between 1093 and 1286.  Their data is drawn from over 6,000 contemporary charters, and is the work of the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and King's College, London.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Bickering Couple-to-be

From the parish register of Bedlington, Northumberland...

Jan 31, 1672    [marriage of] John Watson [&] Jan Hunter, both in Bedlington, was several times published in ye church but John and ye bride had a great contest so they did discharge ye minister for calling them any more so, within 14 days after ye said John came to ye minister and did desire him to call them 3 times in ye church, with much ado ye minister did cause them to be called out of ye church so of ye Thursday after John and a great company of young men rode abroad ye parish and several other parishes and invited all his friends and neighbours to ye wedding against that day since to accompanying him to ye church and to come and dine with him which wedding day should have been on Thursday ye 21st day of November, 1671 but by misfortune the bridegroom lay back and would not be married and doth call ye bride both whore and jade and broken faced queen, but small that she is so kind that she will sit down upon his knee and both kiss him and clap him and call him both honey and heart, so ye wedding never went any further as yet but ye bride did invite a few good neighbours to come and eat a fat goose and a piece of good roast beef that same day and to be sure that they should provide good store of moneys along with them, but ye said John came in at night and called all that was at ye dinner both knaves and rascals and bid them begone and told ye bride before them all that he had occupied her both in ye bed and among ye meadow and in ye bier which she could not deny, so ye wedding was ended with much shame but ye bride did nothing but laugh, so fair.....

But now it happened upon ye 30th day of January that ye said John Watson came to ye clerk Ralph Mitford and did desire him to speak to ye parson that he would be pleased to marry ye said John and Jan Hunter but ye said Janes children came to ye churchgarth and made a sore outcry that ye whole town did make an uproar so ye said John went his way and met ye bride coming to ye church to be married so they both returned and then ye bride went to her friends house and John together, but some cross words began between them that ye bride did run away almost a mile out of ye town which many neighbours did follow and ye bridegroom did borrow a roaning mare of a young man in ye town and did bring ye bride back and so it happened upon ye Friday being ye 31st January that as it pleased God that both ye parties came to ye minister and clerk and were lawfully married upon ye 31st of Jan.1672.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Lost Ancestors Project


The Federation of Family History Societies and FindMyPast are joining forces for a major new transcription project to help trace missing ancestors called the Lost Ancestors Project.  FFHS/FMP would like to invite family history societies and any family historians to help with this project. It involves indexing information from a collection of UK strays, kindly donated to the FFHS by Dennis Pearce and many other collectors.  Thing is, the deadline date for volunteers is 30th January - see the FFHS site and FMP site for the full story.'s January newsletter is now available.  Worth a quick look for us all, I should say.

The SoG have recently made two announcements of interest.  The first concerns a little more info about the forthcoming BBC2 show which I mentioned back on 20th January, namely, The Reel History of Britain - see here.  The second is a special offer for their members for a major forthcoming conference in London on the subject of Early Modern Ancestors - see here.

And see here for reviews of the latest books of Irish interest - with plenty of history among the titles.


Birth of...
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Austrian composer, in Salzburg, in 1756;
Lewis Carroll, English author, in Daresbury, Cheshire, in 1832.

Death of...
Sir Francis Drake, English explorer, in 1596.  He died of dysentery when he was about 55, while anchored off the coast of Portobelo, Panama.  Before dying he asked to be dressed in his full armour, and was buried at sea in a lead coffin, near Portobelo.  Divers continue to search for the coffin to this day.

1944: The 900-day Siege of Leningrad ends.

1945: Auschwitz death camp liberated by the Allies - a day now known annually as Holocaust Memorial Day.  Prof Jeremy Black looks at how attitudes have changed to this central piece of European history at the BBC History Magazine website.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Be a TV Star


FindMyPast have announced the following:-

We’re on the lookout for anyone who wants to tell their family history story on TV.
Have you researched your family tree using Did you make any interesting discoveries along the way? If so, and you’d be happy to tell your story on TV, we want to hear from you. Your story would feature on a community TV family history programme and you’d need to be available to come to London for filming on one day between 7 and 18 February. Travel expenses within the UK will be reimbursed.
If you’re interested, please tell us about your family history stories in 500 words or fewer. Email your story to with ‘Family history research’ in the subject line and we’ll get in touch with anyone whose story is suitable. Please remember to include a daytime telephone number in your email.
The closing date for entries is Monday 31 January 2011.  We look forward to reading your experiences of researching your family tree with
The link to the blog entry is here.

Fancy a free historical map of Edinburgh?  Well, you can get one if you buy a copy of The Scotsman on Saturday 29th January (Edinburgh, Fife & Borders editions only).  See here.


The Family Recorder blog has an interesting piece about levels of registration of births in the English/Welsh GRO Index before and after the famous law change of 1874 which dispels an old myth.

And totally and utterly not family history, but topical none the less, is this investigation into the history of the Hollywood Oscars! (


1788: The British First Fleet sails into what would become Sydney Harbour to establish the first permanent European settlement on the continent.  Now celebrated as 'Australia Day'.

1998: President Bill Clinton denies having "sexual relations with that woman" (aka Monica Lewinsky).

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Ancestry Withdraw Service

NEWS have announced the scrapping of their 'Expert Connect' service, through which family historians could hire the services of professional genealogists.  If this is something you have an interest in, then you may wish to check out commentaries on the topic at Anglo-Celtic Connections and Scottish GENES, with some useful advice to be found on the latter.

Professional genealogists and record agents themselves may be interested in this blog entry on Carolyn McNicholl's site relating to her experiences in applying for certification by the US-based Board of Certification of Genealogists.


Birth of...
Robert Boyle, Irish chemist, in Lismore (Co.Waterford), in 1627;
Virginia Woolf, English writer, in London, 1882;
and, of course, Robert Burns, Scottish poet, in Alloway (Ayrshire), in 1759.

Death of...
Al Capone, in 1947, aged 48.  He died of a heart attack following a bout of pneumonia, which itself had followed a stroke ... which, in turn, had come on the back of neurosyphilis.

1971: General Idi Amin seizes power in Uganda whilst the country's president, Milton Obote, is abroad attending a Commonwealth Conference.

Monday, 24 January 2011

More Freebies


OK, so I'm a day late, but 23rd January marked the 100th anniversary of the Pontypridd railway accident in which 11 people were killed.  The ensuing Board of Trade inquiry is free to download from TNA site for the next month.

Also, I see that is offering free access to its England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892 until the end of January.  Thanks to Scottish GENES for flagging this one.

The latest TNA Podcast, entitled Damaged, Disturbed and Dismembered: disability and war in the 20th century is now available.


There's a curious piece on The Family Recorder blog, here, concerning an extraordinary scheme to build a land-bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

And have a look at this story from the BBC website.  You've just got to feel for the poor old man who never knew what he had.  Stroke of luck for his beneficiaries, though!


Death of...
Sir Winston Churchill, aged 90, in 1965.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Hardwicke's Marriage Act

Hardwicke's Marriage Act of 1753 (effective from 25th March 1754) looms large in the history of genealogical research - its full title, "An Act for the Better Preventing of Clandestine Marriage", saying it all.  Basically requiring a formal ceremony of marriage, it was precipitated by a dispute about the validity of a Scottish marriage.  Curiously, however, the Act only extended to England and Wales, Scottish law remaining unchanged by the shenanigans.  One of the greatest ironies in the history of genealogical research, you might say.

What might be described as the defining article on the subject of what brought the Act about can be found in Dr Leah Leneman's effort, namely The Scottish Case That Led to Hardwicke's Marriage Act. It's a piece from an American journal, but penned by an Edinburgh-based expert.  Bordering on the academic, I suppose, but worth persevering with.

[I should warn readers that the repeated assertion in the second paragraph by various quoted (and erroneous) sources that the 'first marriage' was overturned in favour of 'wife number two', was not actually how the case resolved itself, as the article eventually bears out.]

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Convicts & Physicians


The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) has announced the unveiling of its new online archive catalogue.  The RCPI archive is one of the most important resources for the history of medicine and medical education in Ireland, but the collections have been underused in the past because of the lack of a detailed catalogue.  Anyway, I wouldn't want to steel the thunder of the source from where I heard of this piece of news, so why not go to read it yourself at the excellent Scottish GENES Blog.

OK, not exactly GB&I, but here's something for free - access to all Australian Convict Records at until the end of January.  Additional info here.  It's all in honour of Australia Day (26th January).

Got an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch?  No, me neither.  Anyway, if you have then you'll want to check out the new 'Old Money' App here.


Forthcoming TV/Radio history programmes can be found here and here.


Birth of...
Sir Francis Bacon, English Philosopher and general all-rounder, in London in 1561;
George (Lord) Byron, English Poet, in Dover, in 1788.

Death of...
Queen Victoria, at Osborne House, Isle of Wight, in 1901 (aged 81). She died of a cerebral haemorrhage after a long general decline.

1879: Battle of Isandlwana, followed immediately by the Battle of Rorke's Drift, which continued into the next day.  Part, of course, of the Anglo-Zulu War.

1924: Ramsey MacDonald becomes the first Labour British Prime Minister.  His government lasts for less than a year.  He rose from humble origins - being born in Lossiemouth, N.E. Scotland, the illegitimate son of John MacDonald, a farm labourer, and Anne Ramsay, a housemaid.

1927: World's first ever live radio commentary of a football match - Arsenal v Sheffield Utd at Highbury.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Grave Words 1

She sleeps alone at last…

... was US humorist Robert Benchley’s famous suggested epitaph for an actress.  But here are some absolutely genuine ones…

Here lie the bones of William Jones,
Who when alive collected bones.
But Death, that bony grizzly spectre,
That most amazing bone collector,
Has boned poor Jones, so snug and tidy,
That here he lies in Bona Fide.

[Unknown location]

Here lies Tam Reid,
Who was chokit to died
Wi' taking a feed
O' butter and breed
Wi' owre muckle speed
When he had nae need –
But just for greed.


My time was come! My days were spent!
I was called – and away I went!

[Painswick Churchyard, Glos.]

And then there’s the extraordinary tale of Spike Milligan’s epitaph:  I told you I was ill.  The great man was buried at St Thomas's Church cemetery in Winchelsea, East Sussex, in 2002, but the Chichester Diocese refused to allow the witty one-liner.  After a two-year wrangle a compromise was eventually reached with the Irish translation, Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite, and additionally in English, Love, light, peace.  The BBC’s explanation of the monumental nonsense can be found here.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Social History? Make Your Mark!


The BBC is currently looking for people with stories, photos, diaries or memories of the 20th century that they would like to share for a brand new series called The Reel History Of Britain.  Using existing film collections, the programme will focus on different aspects of British life over the last century, and trace the descendents of those featured in the films.  If you'd like to get involved, please get in touch with the team - see here.  Sounds like a neat new angle on the TV family history craze.

The build up to the 'biggie' - the Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE! 2011 fair - continues with the Society of Genealogists letting fly with a hefty press release, here.  Worth a look if you plan to go to the London extravaganza during 25th-27th February.  Official website here.

FindMyPast have released a lengthy statement, too (here), where they remind us what's gone in 2010, and what's to come in 2011 on their website.  The Scots are getting pretty excited about what's in store for them - especially the proposed addition of the Census Returns for Scotland for 1841-1901.


An interesting piece has popped up on the BBC website about the planned excavation of 'George', the unused fourth escape tunnel at the Stalag Luft III PoW camp in Poland (of The Great Escape fame).  You all remember the names of the other three tunnels don't you?  Yes, 'Tom', 'Dick' and 'Harry', of course!


Death of...
King George V, on 20th January 1936.

20th January 1961 - yes, it's 50 years since the inauguration ceremony of John F Kennedy, and that famous speech of his, you know: Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country, etc....

Bad day for the Severn Bore in 1607, as the tidal surge claimed the lives of around 2,000 folk.

1921 saw the sinking of the K5 British submarine en route to a training session in the Bay of Biscay.  All 57 hands were lost.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

WDYTYA? Up for Award


The BBC's popular genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are? is among the nominees for 'Best Factual Programme' at this year's National TV Awards.  See them blow their own trumpet here, where you will also find a link to register your vote.  Voting ends 26th January.

The Friends of The National Archives Lecture takes place on Wednesday 26th January (6.30pm), and is snappily entitled Science & Sustainability in Cultural Heritage: Building a Resilient Future for The National Archives.  The talk will examine the challenges faced by the culture sector, financial and otherwise.  You'll need to contact them quickly in order to book your seat - see here.

TNA's latest podcast can be found here (Titanic: the official story). have unveiled their latest set of new records, namely the London Land Tax Valuation of 1910.  OK, so its just the capital, but in does contain 70,000 names, together with plenty of information of the houses they lived in.  Worth a look for many of us, then.

Oxford University's Great War Archive is to be extended thanks to an agreement with the Europeana Foundation and the German National Library to collect family memories and digital images of items relating to the First World War in Germany.


Birth of...
James Watt, Scottish Inventor, at Greenock, on 19th January 1736.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The National Library of Wales Open Day


The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth has announced that its 2011 Open Day will take place on Saturday 29th January.  Lots going on, as usual, and all for free - but you'll need to book early. See here for full details. have responded to enquiries by their subscribers by promising to get the entire 1911 Census for England & Wales up and running on their site by the end of 2011.  It will be released in stages, with the scanned images of the Returns themselves being made available first.  Read the debate, including follow-up comment, here.


Neat online exhibition on the little textile tokens left with abandoned babies at the London Foundling Hospital.  Very touching.


Death of...
Labour Leader Hugh Gaitskell on 18th January 1963, aged 56.  Harold Wilson succeeded, and led Labour to power in 1964.

18th January 1967 - The man who claimed to be the Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, is sentenced to life for assault & armed robbery in the US.  The killer, or killers, responsible for the 'Boston Strangler deaths' was/were never properly identified.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Post No.1 !!

Well, I have finally decided to take the plunge.  Welcome to the very first post of my brand new British & Irish Genealogy Blog, or BI-Gen as we shall be calling it.  It may take a while to get things moving and gather support, but please stick with me and help spread the word!

OK, let's get things going...


The Irish have the honour of getting first mention, with the announcement on the Irish Genealogy News website of Spring Term (Irish) Genealogy Courses for the serious researcher (viz. they're a bit pricey)  You'll have to get your skates on, though, as some of them start soon.


The Family Recorder blog includes an interesting article on the curious topic of Victorian Mourning-Wear, which gives an interesting perspective on our ancestors' lives.

BBC History Magazine website (recently rebranded as 'HistoryExtra' and to be found at ) includes an interesting piece by Dominic Sandbrook on the introduction, 100 years ago, of payment for MPs.

And take a look at this BBC article on a mickey-taking Nazi-saluting canine.


Birth of...
David Lloyd George, British PM 1916-22, on 17th January 1863 ... in Manchester!

17th January 1983 - BBC's Breakfast Time hits our TVs, hosted by Frank Bough & Selina Scott.

17th January 1991 - The Gulf War's 'Operation Desert Storm' begins in earnest with the first US air strikes on Iraq and Iraqi-occupied Kuwait.

Saint's Day ... St.Anthony the Great, patron saint of basket-makers, brush-makers, gravediggers and, er, pigs and swineherds.  He was supposedly famed for his treatment of skin diseases by the application of pig-fat - hence his association with all things piggy.