Archive for June, 2010

Personal Stories – World War I

Many of the collections have documents relating to family members who bravely fought in one of the great wars.

The ‘Ridout Special Collection’ is no different, except for the sheer amount of information it has on one particular family member who died at the tender age of 19.

Personal letters that Gaspard Ridout wrote to his mother before he died really help to build the picture of a brave young man who was desperate to make his father proud, whilst the official documents give us real insight into how this young man died in an unprecedented German attack that unfortunately left many others dead. Combined they are a touching account of a young man’s short life.

Gaspard Ridout died on 21 March 1918 which was the first day of the last great German offensive. Operation "Michel" was opened with a 6,000 gun barrage which delivered a lethal gas attack deep into Allied lines. At one point, the Germans advanced 14 miles in one day, more than at any other time during the fighting in the West. During the first six weeks of fighting, the Allies lost 350,000 casualties, but more troops were rushed in from across the channel, and American units began arriving for the first time.

A postcard written by Gaspard Ridout shortly before his death along with his certificate of death and a war grave commission addressed to his grieving mother.

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An Inventory document detailing a wrist watch, strap and guard.

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One of many personal and touching letters written by Gaspard Ridout to his mother.

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Gaspard Ridout’s grave.

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Grants of Arms

Coats of Arms derived when mediaeval knights taking part in tournaments were recognised by the arms they bore on their shields and the crests they wore on their helmets. Heralds became responsible for recording arms, and then later for controlling their use.

Coats of arms belong to individuals. For any person to have a right to a coat of arms they must either have had it granted to them or be descended in the legitimate male line from a person to whom arms were granted or confirmed in the past.

To establish a right to arms by inheritance it is necessary to prove a descent from an ancestor who is already recorded as entitled to arms in the registers of the College of Arms.

The Society of Genealogists has hundreds of historic ‘Grants of Arms’ letters patent which are all quite beautiful in their own right. Most have one or two seals attached to the official parchment document which are protected by a removable metal case. They are rolled and kept in official College of Arms boxes.

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Grant of Arms for Amelius Richard Mark Lockwood 1917

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Grant of Arms for William Joseph Kelson Millard 1882

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Bonds

All three of the Society’s collections (Special, Document and Topographical) contain many different legal documents such as wills, marriage settlements, leases, indentures etc. Also included are Bonds for things like family debts like the example below.

An 1807 Bond showing the Joint and Several Loan Obligation of James William Drinkwater Guest and Jonathan Shield Guest of Islington obliged to repay William Till of Pentonville £1020 plus interest. Should they default they are obliged to pay the Penal sum of £3000.

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Suggested lectures:

Sat 31 July 2010 10.30am Finding and Understanding Wills. Book early to avoid disappointment.

Wed 6 October 2010 2pm In the High Courts of Justice: Chancery Records for Family Historians. Book early to avoid disappointment.

 

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Maps

The Society hold thousands of original and copied flat and folded maps dating back to the eighteenth century. The Society’s map collection is part of the extensive Topographical collection and covers most of the British isles as well as far away places such as Jamaica.

Many people are fascinated by old maps and rightly so, as many old maps are works of art in themselves and reveal the surroundings of where our ancestors lived. This helps to give us a better understanding of what daily life would have meant for our ancestors. It’s also interesting to find an old map of a familiar place and compare it to a modern day version.

The below example is an original map from 1862 on linen of Deptford in Kent.

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Civil Service Evidence of Age

The Civil Service Evidence of Age documents were for established civil servants and civil service examination candidates, collected by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) in order to establish accurate birth dates for the purpose of either ensuring that an examination candidate was of the required age, or for granting a pension.

By the 1980s, the CSC still held original documents for approximately 60,000 individuals, consisting largely of items that it would be impractical to replace, such as personal testimonials or documents from overseas. This important genealogical collection was deposited at the Society of Genealogists (SoG) and provides unique and often irreplaceable evidence of birth for which other sources are unlikely to be available. It might more properly be titled the Remains of the Civil Service Evidences of Age, as it is estimated that it constitutes only 2% of the papers originally held by the Civil Service. The remaining 98% were destroyed by the Civil Service.

This collection spans evidence of birth from 1752 up until the twentieth century, though the great majority of births recorded took place in the nineteenth century.

The Society indexers transcribed not just the civil service post-holder or candidate, but also any relatives named in the same document where a date of birth was given for them.

The below example is of David Gross born 15 January 1885 in Constantinople Turkey.

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Suggested lecture:

My Ancestor was a Policeman. Wednesday 3rd November 2010 2pm

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