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Wakefield & District Family History Society

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Last Meeting

"Registration, Past, Present and Future" by Barbara Dixon
On Saturday 2nd June Barbara Dixon, a retired Superintendent Registrar, explained how civil registration came into being in July 1837. The General Record Office became responsible to Parliament for the registration of births and deaths. Marriages were registered but were not a legal requirement. In the past registration would have been made at a local office. In the future we will have central databases and multi points to register which will enable registration to be made anywhere in England and Wales Also applications for certificates will be made online but the traditional method will still be available.

Registrars were unpaid and their earnings came from the sale of certificates until 1935. Certificates were hand written but later copies could be made by Xerox. After1874 both names of parents could be on birth certificates even though they were not married. Previously only the mother’s name was on a certificate. After 1969 Abandoned Children’s Registers were introduced.

In the future we learned that there will be no need for birth certificates in order to apply for a passport or driving licence. Much more information will be made available such as death certificates having both parents names plus occupations where relevant. Marriages today can take place in any civil registered buildings other than just churches and will soon be available in any non licensed building. Time constraints will be removed [ between 8am and 6pm]. Civil ceremonies between same sex partners do take place today but probably sometime soon a church marriage will be possible between same sex partners. Other changes mean that birth dates occur on a marriage certificate rather than just ages. Terms such as bachelor and spinster will be replaced by the term single.

There was a great deal of information given by Barbara of which only a distillation has been given however an extended question and answer period testified to the fact that many in the audience found her talk very informative and interesting.

Next meeting is 7th July when the AGM will take place plus a talk by Tony Banks on the Jubilee exhibition held at the Hall and on how Wakefield has changed over the last 60 years. Enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310

"Untangling a Petyt Pedigree" by Gillian Waters
On Saturday 5th of May the meeting was opened by the chairman, Carol Sklinar, who announced that the Federation of Family History Societies had awarded a certificate of Commendation for the presentation of our journal, The Kinsman. This was in the small society category. Elsie Walton, editor and vice chairman was asked to step forward to receive the certificate.
Our guest speaker, Gillian Waters, with the aid of slides proceeded to show how her research into family history could lead often to frustration in an effort to get to the truth. It was while trying to untangle a branch of her family tree, the Petyts, that she began to realise that it was not all that it seemed.
Starting with the Yorkshire branch of the Petyts in Skipton Gillian referred to ‘A History of Skipton’ by W H Dawson published in the 19th century. An entry showed that the Petyts had links with the Norman conquest. This certainly excited Gillian. However she was suspicious when reference was made to Guisley and Bolton Abbey.
Subsequent research did not turn up any such link. There was mention of a William Petyt and Skipton Castle but Gillian’s attention was drawn back to Dawson.
A list of dates of baptisms of children was given plus dates of several marriages. But they did not fit. Gillian later found out that a William and Mary Petyt had both been married before and had several children each. This William Petyt had been involved in business and acquired wealth and then trained as a lawyer.
He eventually moved to London where he attended Grays Inn and gained influential friends. This led to his being appointed as chief archivist at the Tower of London and drawing up of important documents. One such explained the action that led to the Glorious Revolution in 1688.
There later developed confusion over William’s design of a coat of arms that was shown to have been taken from a family of Petyts from Cornwall whose line had died out in the 14th century. But the Herald’s College had not been set up until the 15th century! Gillian also referred to T D Whitaker’s History of Craven which showed that the Petyt pedigree did not fit and was too simplistic especially when reference was made to links with King Arthur!
Links with the Petyts of Kent and their pedigree also revealed inconsistencies in relation to descriptions of occupational activities and relationships.
Gillian is still trying to prove if deliberate lies were told or falsehoods created or perhaps elements of truth are to be found. Maybe information had been passed on that was hearsay, wrongly interpreted or even embellished. A lot of work has and continues to have been put into Gillian’s research of the Petyts. But she also endeavoured to point out the pitfalls of family history particularly with links that are post Conquest or even Arthurian!
Next meeting is 2nd of June when Barbara Dixon looks at ‘Registration past, present and future’. Enquiries to Ron Pullan Secretary 01924 373310

"Tips on Tracing Irish Ancestors" by Lynne K Schofield
 
            At our meeting on 7 April about 90 members enjoyed an explanation by Lynne Schofield of ways to research Irish ancestry. Lynne, a family history tutor, reminded us that, contrary to the accepted dictum, not all Irish records have been destroyed. Although many Census records, including the enumerators’ books, were pulped by the government, and large numbers of Parish Records were lost in the notorious fire at the Dublin PRO, there are still plenty of other ways to trace your family.
            Most researchers will be starting with a record from England, perhaps a census form which says “Birthplace - Ireland”. Even if a town is given you have to remember that the English enumerator is writing what he heard spoken in a broad Irish accent, and the answer to “where are you from?” may not be the same as “where were you born?” Often immigrants tend to live in a small area, so it could be useful to search neighbours for clues to a town in Ireland. The National Library of Ireland has a surname index which shows the concentration of surnames in different areas.
            Working from the name of a town, parish or county, there are records available at the Registrar Generals’ Offices in Dublin and Belfast, in the PRO, Dublin or PRONI, Belfast, the National Library of Ireland in Dublin and the National Archives of Ireland, also in Dublin. It has to be remembered that Ireland was one country before 1922.
            In addition to the Parish and Census records there are other very useful records such as; Griffith’s Valuation (to assess liability for poor rates), Diocesan censuses, Tithe applotment books and lists of tithe defaulters as well as the usual school records, Poor Law records, land registries and local directories.
            Many of these records are now available on-line, either at the Record Repository’s own site, often at no cost, or at pay sites such as Ancestry or FindMyPast. Lynne recommended “Tracing Your Irish Ancestors” by John Grenham as perhaps the best reference book for Irish genealogy.
            While acknowledging that Irish family history research does present its own special problems, Lynne showed that there are ways to make progress.
 
Some useful web addresses:
     www.nli.ie : The National Library of Ireland

Nurse Nellie Spindler

Nurse Nellie Spindler - A Queen Alexandra Nurse

On Saturday 3rd March guest speaker, Mavis Sellers, gave an intriguing talk on a local and national heroine, Nellie Spindler. She was born 1891 in Wakefield and became a trained nurse at Leeds General Infirmary. She specialised in abdominal injuries. At the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, she along with many other nurses, volunteered to

serve as a Queen Alexandra Nurse. This organisation had been formed in 1902 and had Queen Alexandra, consort to Edward VII, as its President.

In 1914 there were about 3000 nurses but by 1918 that number had increased to 23000.

Nellie served in a Casualty Clearing Station which was close to the front at Brandhoek

in Belgium. These stations consisted of a number of large tents and the one that Nellie was posted to in 1917 had over 800 beds. With the commencement of the battle at Passchendaele near Ypres in July of the same year, Nellie, along with other nurses were soon overwhelmed with casualties. Injuries sustained were often horrific and if possible had to be treated as quickly as possible in order to prevent infection and gangrene from setting in. Not only were the nurses working around the clock but were constantly in danger from artillery fire from the enemy. Amid the confusion and chaos a shell did explode nearby and Nurse Nellie was fatally injured by shrapnel. She was buried at Lijssenthoek War Cemetery near Poperinge. She is the only female buried there among 10000 men.

The Spindler family received a letter and a medal from the King and a memorial is dedicated to her and two other nurses, who died from disease, at Leeds General Infirmary.

The next meeting is 7th April when Lynne Schofield will talk on Locating Irish Ancestors.

Enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310


The Holmfirth Blue Plaque Trail
At the meeting on 4 February over 100 members braved the forecast snowfall and enjoyed a fascinating talk by David Cockman, from Holmfirth Civic Society, on the recently- erected blue plaques in the town. The Civic Society wanted to provide something for visitors to enjoy once they had taken their photographs on Norah Batty’s steps and had a cup of tea in Sid’s café.
            The town has a long industrial heritage, but much of the evidence has now been lost. The Society’s aim was to keep what was left at the forefront of people’s memories and David’s talk was illustrated with slides and film showing many of the highlights of Holmfirth’s past commemorated by the plaques.
            We saw the town’s last iron foundry which is probably the only one left in the country still able to produce cast iron guttering and fall-pipes.
            The different standards of dress in Edwardian times compared with today were illustrated by pictures of a suffragist meeting and a crowd at a football match. In both cases every single person was wearing a hat. The suffragette movement had strong support in the Holme Valley area. One local mill-girl achieved fame, or notoriety, when the photograph of her being arrested by two burly policemen was on the front page of national daily papers. Her conduct was branded as disgraceful by the magistrate at her trial.
            A more sombre note was struck by photographs of the terrible flood which hit Holmfirth on 4th February 1852 - exactly 160 years before today’s meeting. 81 people died in the flood and one of the bodies was only found in the 1960s. The disaster a nationwide appeal resulted in the raising of £70,000 for relief of the victims. Some of the money was used to build five almshouses in the town dedicated “to the poor of all the surrounding townships for ever” as shown on the blue plaque.
            In 1944 another flood hit the town, but this time it was kept a secret because it had been caused by a violent thunderstorm and there was an embargo on any news relating to weather in the run-up to D-Day.
            Before “Last of the Summer Wine” the most well-known products of Holmfirth were probably Bamforth’s postcards. In his early days James Bamforth produced many short silent films and David showed some of these, all filmed locally using local people as actors. One of the slapstick comedy stars was “Winky” whose antics rivalled those of Chaplin. Had it not been for the First World War Holmfirth may have been Britain’s Hollywood. David also had examples of Bamforth’s later works, including the famous “saucy seaside” cards showing large ladies and their hen-pecked husbands. Precursor to Norah Batty and Wally?
            David finished his talk with film of some Holmfirth residents singing the Holmfirth “anthem” - Pratty Flowers.
            The blue plaque walk was instituted to encourage visitors to the town and David’s talk certainly did that for our members.
            At our next meeting, on 3rd March, Mavis Sellers will talk about the life of a Queen Alexandra Nurse. Doors open at 9.00am for a 9.30 start.
           


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