Archive for April, 2010

Personal Papers, Ration Books and Identity Cards

image thumb5 Personal Papers, Ration Books and Identity Cards Ration Books along with the National Identity cards are typical of the documents that can be found amongst our collections. Most Collections contain some kind of war memorabilia.

Owing to shortages during the war many items were rationed so that everyone could get their fair share. Before the war many of the everyday goods in British shops were imported. The outbreak of war and the dangers to ships from enemy U-boats meant that many goods were in short supply; even goods which were made in Britain were no longer available, as the factories stopped making them. This was because many of the raw materials had to be imported, and the men who worked in the factories were called up to serve in the military. In addition, many factories were converted to make items to help the war effort, such as ammunition, guns, aeroplanes, tanks and uniforms.

Everyone was issued with a food ration card and had to register to buy their food from specific shops. The shop was then issued with the relevant amount of food for the number of registered customers. However, as food was in short supply the shops often did not receive enough for all their customers. News that a delivery had arrived at the shop spread fast and long queues soon formed as everyone was keen to get their share before it was all sold.

Suggested lecture:

Wed 19th May 2010 at 2pm Child Evacuees of World War II. Book early to avoid disappointment.

Diaries and Personal Papers

Many of the Special and Document Collections contain personal papers and diaries such as the 1788 diary and letters of Englishman Thomas Ridout who was captured by Indians on the Ohio river, U.S.A.  Seven men were captured but only Thomas Ridout and one other were lucky enough to live to tell the tale. His story is backed up by newspaper articles informing readers of their capture.

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It was very common for combatants and civilians of the First and second World War to record the daily events of their experiences in the form of a diary.

This is the diary of Ellen Lister. It shows that on the day before the First World War broke out in the hot Summer of August 1914 the Lister family went to see the popular New York comedy play Potash and Perlmutter which had crossed the Atlantic to rave reviews. This comedy was probably touring in repertory theatre. A production was very well reviewed in the Reading Eagle in September 1914 thus showing, like this diary, that the general population had little inkling of the forthcoming horrors of the Great War.

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Many of the Society’s collections contain fascinating and insightful photographs. Most photographs are of family members, military personnel, pets, locations etc but some collections contain more unusual photographs i.e. bombed London locations.

Suggested lecture:

Sat 16th October 2010 at 2pm Learn about your Ancestors from Old Photographs. Book early to avoid disappointment.

Here are just a few examples:

The Seear family were particularly connected with confectionery and tea selling, their Special Collection contains many fascinating pictures and information on the shopkeepers in S.E. London.

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The extensive Lister Collection contains many beautiful family photographs from the 19th century such as this one of mother and daughter.

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The photograph on the left is of ‘Gwen Harold’ and can be found in an album from the Baxter-Holl Special Collection along with the photograph on the right which was taken in Haslemere, Surrey.  The Baxter-Holl album contains many stunning pictures, few of  which have been dated which should be a reminder to us all to name and date all of our photographs.

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This photograph is from the Cartland Special Collection and shows the Suhum and District Scout Council in Ghana with Rev A Cofie, taken in 1936.

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Marriage Settlements

When a man and woman married, the law considered the wife’s legal identity to be absorbed into her husband’s, this meant that everything a woman owned before her marriage became the property of her husband, to dispose of as he pleased. This did not change until the Married Women’s Property Act of 1882 that married women were given the same property rights as single women.

Marriage settlements, which were essentially prenuptial agreements, were the means that parents and guardians used to circumvent this problem. The settlement would set up a separate trust for the wife and guarantee her access to certain amounts of funds during her husband’s life and after his death. Exact terms would be negotiated and contracted out by the parties involved and could include other provisions as well. This way a father could prevent a profligate son-in-law from spending all his money and leaving his daughter destitute.

The below settlement outlines a form of pre nuptial agreement between the families Batson and Smart in August 1781.

There is no place where marriage settlements or other such original and personal family documents might be deposited and this item has come to the Society of Genealogists from family papers or perhaps even from the office of the solicitors involved and has been placed in the document collection of miscellaneous family papers and research notes.

This settlement outlines a form of pre nuptial agreement between the families. The IGI and Ancestry shows the marriage by licence of Robert Batson (widower of “St Annes Middlesex”) and Mary Smart at St Dunstans and All Saints, Stepney on 16 August 1781. There is a Faculty Office Marriage Licence for this marriage issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury on 14th August and indexed by the Society on the online British Origins website. Altogether these documents shed light on the practice of marriage in the mid 18th century.

Marriage Settlements can be found in both the Special and Document Collections.

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Suggested lectures:

Saturday 8th May 2010 at 2pm: Marriage Law and Practice in the Long Eighteenth Century. Book early to avoid disappointment.

Wednesday 5th May 2010 at 2pm: Tracing Female Ancestors. Book early to avoid disappointment.