Marriage Licences

The Society hold a collection of around 3,000 original marriage licences from churches around London and Middlesex from 1768 –1892. Many of the Document and Special Collections also contain individual marriage licences.

Marriage licences give valuable information regarding places of origin and family members. This can be vital information given the difficulties inherent in researching London families in the years before Census and General Registration.

Each license tells its own unique story like the one featured below which shows Henry Bulley and Frances Ellen Blood, two “minors” marring each other again for the second time in February 1834. They eloped for their first marriage to Greta Green in Scotland and were perhaps then ordered by their parents to marry again ‘properly’.

 

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Some of the 26 volumes of original marriage licences.

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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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Pedigrees

The word Pedigree derives from the Old French phrase ‘Pied de grue’ meaning ‘Crane’s foot’ which refers to the appearance of the typical drop-line family tree with lines from an individual branching down to descendants or up to ancestors.

The Society holds over 7,000 Roll Pedigrees outlining the genealogical relationships of thousands of families. Most of these are unpublished and represent the hard work of our members. Some, such as these beautiful volumes of illustrated pedigrees from the Lucas Pedigrees and Connections by ‘Louise Cecilia Bazalgette Lucas’ are works of art in their own right.

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The Scattergood pedigree is another very attractive family tree compiled by John Scattergood of Madras who died in 1723. What’s most interesting about this particular pedigree is that it claims to trace the family back to Adam and Eve.

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Apprentice Indentures

Apprentice Indentures are legal documents that were signed by apprentices and their masters to agree the conditions of an apprenticeship. Apprenticeship dates back to the later Middle Ages (1300-1500). Master craftsmen, such as cobblers, blacksmiths, tailors and weavers, benefited from cheap labour by taking on an apprentice, usually a child in their early teens, offering board and lodging and training in return.

Below is the original indenture for Thomas Eyre a “poor child” aged 12 in 1736, issued by the church wardens and overseers of the poor of the parish of St Margaret in the City of Westminster. These documents were obtained by document collectors from parish chests in the nineteenth century before the establishment of record offices. It is now held in the Crisp and Clench Collection of apprentice indentures purchased by the Society in about 1919. Not only does the collection hold many original apprenticeship indentures for Westminster parishes but there are also original indentures for children from the orphan’s asylum in the parish of St Mary’s Lambeth.

This indenture is on one piece of paper but indentures were originally drafted on a single piece of paper that was cut in half so that an apprentice’s legitimacy could be proved by putting the two pieces back together

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There are many unusual, one off documents within all three of the Society’s collections. For example, this eye witness account of the speech made by Sir Walter Ralegh prior to his execution in 1618. It is contained in a parchment letter from Edward Prue to a Mr Edwards.

According to the Dictionary of National Biography this moving speech lasted about three quarters of an hour. The lack of punctuation can make documents of this style difficult to comprehend. Geoff Swinfield who is a member of the SoG and also a professional genealogist has kindly taken the time to transcribe the letter (see below) for ease of understanding. The Society is very proud of this 400 year old letter.

clip image002 Rare Find: Eye witness account of the speech made by Sir Walter Ralegh prior to his 1618 execution.

Modern Transliteration

[reported by Edward Prue] this day for Mr Edwards at My Lord of Dorset

The speech of Sir Walter Ralegh who was beheaded at the old Palace of Westminster on the 29th October 1618 between 8 & 9 am. The [following]Lords were present

Earle of Arundell Lord Percye

Earle of Oxenford

Earle of Lincoln Lord Sheffeeld

Lo Viscount Doncaster Lord Windesor

along with many knights and gentlemen of rank and quality. Having ascended the scaffold he saluted those Lords who were present and said the following :

“If I appear to tremble, I beg that you don’t put it down to cowardice on my part but rather to a strong and violent fever that is hindering me in what I intend to say. This is the third fit that I have had and when I got up yesterday it was at its worse.

I pray that [this fever] doesn’t hinder my voice or the delivery of what I want to say, for I desire that your Lordships may witness it. I thank God that I have been delivered out of the darkness to die here in the light …”

The Lords, who had mostly been at the window overlooking the scaffold asked him to delay his speech so they could come down to him, which he did.

“As I said, thank God that I came out of the darkness of my imprisonment in the Tower to die in the light. As for the matter that caused the King to take so great offence against me, I must confess that there was probably some cause, yet it is far from the whole truth. The main material points are as follows:

Firstly, that I slandered the King concerning dealings with France. Secondly, that I used abusive language about the King.

With regard to the first matter with France I herby call eternal God to witness that I never directly or indirectly had any dealings, treaty, messages or business with the King or State of France or with anyone there. Neither did I have any dealings with the French agent. Indeed I had never ever seen him before until he came to my house. Oh Lord I call upon your all seeing majesty to witness that I am most clear and innocent in this matter. Alas, it would be foolish madness for me to lie in the presence of God as I will be going to him soon and before whom I am now making my account. How would it profit me to make light of such matters and hence risk my soul? It’s a fearful and terrible thing for a man to ask God to be his witness but to then lie and ask God to witness a falsehood. I now have no power in the world and am in no position to flatter Kings for I am now sentenced to death.

It is true that I intended to flee to La Rochelle and to stay there until I could make my peace. But I never intended to do anything [wrong] nor was I commissioned to do anything by France as has been strongly inferred against me. Oh Lord I will forsake your mercy if I evener intended such a thing.

As for the second point about words spoken against His Majesty I hereby solemnly protest and, oh Lord I beg you to throw my soul into the fiery flames of eternal damnation if I had ever spoken such words or had any such thoughts within me. It grieves me that a *renegade Frenchman, a kind of *cyncical, Chinese physician who caused me no end of irritation should be believed above me. For I have always loved the King and loved him when he was King of Scotland. However, I have forgiven him and Sir Lewis Stewkley also as Mr Dean can witness for me as he administered the sacrament to me this morning.

[* the direct transliteration of the terms Runnegate Frenchmen and Chinnincke phisicion would today be considered racist abuse and hence the above loses some of the colour and emphasis of the original]

[According to the Dictionary of National Biography Sir Lewis Stucley, cousin of Sir Walter Ralegh and Vice Admiral of Devon infamously betrayed Ralegh by arresting him after being firstly involved in aiding his attempt to escape to France]

And although I have forgiven Stewkeley, which I do with all my heart, I think it necessary to warn you to beware of such dangerous men as Stewkeley who is my kinsman and who above all others has betrayed me. For he is not ashamed to swear to my face, that I offered him a bribe on our way to London to let me escape in return for payment for £10,000. I call God as my witness that I never offered him any such money. However I did offer money that might be used to pay his debts if he could arrange for my escape order. For if I had had £10,000, I know well enough how I might have used it to achieve my safety and would never used such means to run away and save my life. Stewkeley also swore that I told him that My Lord Carew, my kinsman, advised me to flee and that my Lord Doncaster (who is also related to me by his first wife) had promised me that I would find assistance in France. Thus [Stewkeley] hoped to turn my good friends into my enemies. Oh Lord you are a witness that such thoughts were far from my mind. He [Stewkeley] also said I suggested that I was poisoned while at the house of Sir Edward Parrams (my wife’s near kinsman and who had once been my loyal follower). Stewkeley himself told me that he suspected some such thing. Rather than report such lies I said he should not think such a thing of Sir Edward Parram for I know him to be a noble and worthy gentlemen and the cook had even been my old servant. However I have forgiven him [Stewkeley].

It has been said that I never intended to undertake any voyage to Guiana but that it was only a trick to gain my liberty. I say I had no other intent or purpose than to go there, truly hoping and assuring myself that I would discover a gold mine that would enrich both the King and myself and the crew. It is generally well known how [that venture] failed for the man I depended on after the death of my son, was violent to me after I reproved him. And while it was said that I was forced back by my own crew, there are several worthy gentlemen in this town that went with me and who can testify that I was forced into my cabin by the uproar and seditious mutiny of my crew. The Gunner Room turned against me and took an oath not to return back to England but to turn pirate. But afterwards through gifts and fair promises I wormed my way back through the Master Gunner of my ship who was one of the leading men of his .. . And so at last I got him to land me in Ireland where he intended to put me ashore on the north part amongst the red shanks. But I persuaded him otherwise and promised to obtain a pardon for some of them accused of piracy. So I managed to land on the south part of Ireland by giving them £125 out of my own purse to relieve them. If I had had any intention of not returning to England I might easily have kept my liberty as I had it then in my own hands. After I came to Plymouth I walked wherever I wanted. Sir Lewis Stewkeley was my keeper but I could have escaped easily if I had feared such strict questioning.

My Lord of Arrundell can bear witness with me, as I now well remember that the last time he was aboard with me before my going away, he asked me to perform one request for him. Whether the voyage went well or ill I was to return again to England, which I promised accordingly and which solemn protestations bound me [to that promise] and which I have performed accordingly to finish my days here now in this place.

It has been rumoured that however the journey went that I had profited from my voyage before hand and that I received £16000 from it. But the mistake has grown out of this. The whole adventure was worth £30,000 and I myself was due £14000. But a search of the Scriveners Books showed it all in my name so it was concluded that I got that £16000. Indeed I paid the bills and ran it in my name but the other investors had the disposal of [the balance] as they themselves know. After I left I had but 160 pieces in all the world of which I left 25 with my wife.

It has also been said that I starved my men of fresh water and other things that could be sold, as anyone who is familiar with such voyages knows well. The rules of propriety must be observed otherwise all shall perish.

There is one thing above all that bothers me and that is a false scandalous report that has blemished my reputation and honour. It is said that when that noble and worthy Earle of Essex left this world I stood at a window drinking, [taking] tobacco, laughing and making merry at his downfall. The all judging God knows that I wept bitterly at that time and shed tears of heartfelt and true sorrow for his reign. For I well know his noble and worthy parts and that his fall would be my destruction. Indeed, I was in the armoury of the Tower at that time but too far away to be noticed. And I was told afterwards that he wanted to speak to me and to be reconciled with me, and I was sorrowful even if I was happy to have known that, for he was a person of contradictions.

As for my “counterfeit sickness” and those matters of my escape, I trust God will not judge it as a sin against me, for the holy prophet David did feign his own madness and let spittle run down his beard to save his life when he was in danger. I’ll let pass and not speak of the thundering reports that came to me of my having got into the habit of “blistering” myself to escape and save my life. I give them no weight, but most heartily desire almighty God and Jesus Christ his son, who opened the gates of salvation to all mankind, to forgive all my sins. For I confess myself to be a most wicked, sinful and wretched man; a poor worm of the earth; one who has delighted and trod in all ways of vanity. For my whole life has been bred up to that, having been a courtier, a captain and soldier – professions in which vices have their best nourishment.

Oh my blessed Saviour, let my merits and passion wash this scarlet off my soul that I may leave the pollution and filth of it behind me. I beg your Christian and charitable payers to God for me and this is all I have to say.”

Then he bowed to all the Lords and gentlemen and embraced them and then took his leave and prepared to pray.

Yo(u)r ever poore loving friend

Edward Prue

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Wills

The Society hold thousands of both original and copied, abstracts and transcripts of probates and wills dating as far back as the 1400’s. Many of the wills are unprobated, which means County record offices would not be aware of their existence. Over the years, the Society has collected copies and abstracts of Irish wills, the originals of which were destroyed in the Irish Civil War of 1922. These include, for example, the volumes known as Welpley’s Irish wills and pleadings which contain some 20 volumes of abstracts from Irish wills, Chancery & Exchequer cases, Guardianships, Deeds, Marriage Settlements, etc which are all prior to the 1922 fire at the Irish record offices.

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The Bank of England Will Extracts

The Society is very proud of rescuing the Bank of England Will extracts that were due to be destroyed in 1985. These large volumes date from 1717 – 1845 and list the details of burials and those that were declared ‘lunatic’. These fascinating documents contain the will extracts of many well known and influential people such as Lord Nelson, Duke of Wellington and Charles Dickens.

This extract is from the will of Lawrence Spencer senior who was clerk of works to the building of St Paul’s Cathedral by Sir Christopher Wren. He inherited the Lottery annuity stock mentioned in the abstract after administering the estate of his son Lawrence junior. Other records show that he also invested in South Sea Stock using capital from the Cathedral building fund but sold his investment at a profit before the bubble burst. Lawrence Spencer senior outlived two of his three wives and his children and died not knowing whether his youngest son was alive or dead as he had last been heard of in St Kitts. Lawrence was buried within the Cathedral along with his first wife Dorothy Bradshaw and an unidentified infant child.

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Suggested lecture, leaflet and visit:

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

The Society have put together a free information leaflet called ‘Probate Records’ click here to download.

Wed 18th Aug 2010 at 2pm visit: Bank of England Museum & Talk. Book early to avoid disappointment.

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