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Berkshire Family Historian
December 2001

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Berkshire Family Historian
Main Page, December 2001 Contents

The Bulletin

A word from our chairman
Chancery proceedings database
Huntley and Palmers on the web
London Metropolitan Archives
Greenham Common website
Northern Ireland certificates
Old school friends
Origins online
BOPCRIS - British Official Publications Collaborative Reader Information Service
Public Record Office events
Dorset open day
Reading Branch meetings

A word from our chairman

As I write this homily in early September, I'm looking forward to visiting my relatives in Australia and looking back to the 'Forward to the Past' family history conference. The conference took twentieth century records as its theme - and it certainly seemed odd hearing about immigration records made as recently as 1980 The theme of the conference was also a reminder, if any were needed, that we are part of our own family's history and that we must include some autobiographical details as we write up our own research. As a widower, I feel this very deeply, as my late wife, Lesley, left voluminous records reaching back to the 16th century, but I have to rely on my mother-in-law and my memories of conversations for details of her life before I met and married her.

I now have a camcorder, so that I can make the fullest possible record of my many cousins as I meet them during my travels, so that I, and they, can have records of our meetings and discussions. I'm enjoying learning as I go along, finding out what works and what doesn't work, and gaining in confidence as I learn.

At the conference Robert Perks talked about the National Sound Archive which gave me some pointers, and I bought a couple of booklets on oral history to help me along. And I do have some magic 'footage' of my American cousins talking about bears carved with chain saws and quilts to build on.

So I do urge you to resolve not to forget your own history and that of your living relatives, and to keep your mind open to learning new skills and new ways of doing things. If there's something you'd like to know more about, please let us know, and perhaps we can commission articles, lectures or workshops to help you.

The conference also hosted the general meeting of the Federation of Family History Societies, a meeting that takes place twice a year where representatives of many family history societies (ours included) can share their views and the Federation can put them forward with government agencies, such as the Public Record Office. The growth of family history on the Internet and the upcoming 1901 census were hot topics at the meeting. The Federation has now been asked to look into ways to make the information transcribed by members of the many societies available online on a 'pay to view' basis. Personally, I look forward to seeing this information online, as I feel it will compare very favourably to information from other sources.

In the September Berkshire Family Historian, I spoke of the different needs of Berkshire family historians, who research in Berkshire, and family historians living in the Berkshire area, who research elsewhere. The other major difference, of course, is between those who use computers for managing their family history research and those who don't. I believe the majority of active family historians now use computers, and they would rather receive information electronically, rather in booklet or fiche form. So far, we haven't published on CD-Rom, partly for security reasons, and partly because not all family historians have computers with CD drives - but then again not all family historians have fiche readers and access to fiche readers is becoming more limited. So should we enter the digital world? Let us know.

Chancery proceedings database

Until recently the only index to the Chancery Court equity records was the Bernau Index in the Society of Genealogists' Library which provided an index to some of the documents, but not the full PRO class reference, only the bundle and sub-numbers.

Now a database is available online from the PRO. The equity records in Chancery contain a vast and wonderful series of documents, but they have always been difficult to access. The documents include information on manorial records, domestic, trading disputes, land purchase, apprenticeship agreements, tithes, common rights and enclosure - even drunkenness. The equity side of the Court of Chancery handled a large number of disparate disputes dealing with inheritance, land transactions, debts and marriage settlements. Evidence took the form of statements on oath (affidavits), pleas, and examination of witnesses (depositions).

In the early seventeenth century each of the Six Clerks of Chancery began to file cases separately in their respective divisions. The records are known as the Six Clerks series. Most cases date from 1648 (although there are a few before) and end in 1722. The documents are arranged in bundles with each bundle containing several cases, each with its own number.

Over 30,000 cases have been entered and can easily be searched by piece reference, by person, place or by subject. For people there's a wealth of detail on occupations, titles and offices held by individuals. The documents reveal a wealth of detail concerning late seventeenth and early eighteenth century life.

Huntley and Palmers on the web

The Museum of Reading and the University of Reading will be digitising material relating to the history of Reading's biscuit makers as a result of a grant from National Lottery fund. Reading's Rural History Centre and the Berkshire Record Office have also been awarded more than a quarter of a million pounds to digitise material about the history of farming and the enclosure maps of Berkshire. The project began in the autumn and is expected to last for two years.

London Metropolitan Archives

From November 24 the LMA will be open for two Saturdays a month. This is an experiment to test the response to Saturday openings. The two Saturdays selected will be the second and fourth in each month, unless it is followed by a holiday. A list of major genealogical sources will also be placed on their website at www.cityoflondon.gov.uk. The relevant page entitled 'London Generations', should enable those interested in London family history to make the most of a visit to the LMA.

Greenham Common website

The National Lottery Fund has given 137,000 to develop a website dedicated to preserving the history of Greenham Common. Over 1,400 items of historical interest will be digitised and eventually made freely available. Video and archive film footage, including audio recordings and photographs, documents and texts will make up what will become a unique digital museum. Some of the site should be up and running towards the end of next year. So if you have material or memories of the Common get in touch with Paul Cannon or Amanda Loaring on 01635 30511.

Northern Ireland certificates

The General Register Office for Northern Ireland has recently launched a new website at www.groni.gov.uk where a key feature of the site is the facility to order credit card applications for birth, death, marriage and adoption certificates online.

Old school friends

If you haven't already seen it there's a new simple-to-use website that allows you to find out what your old school and college friends are doing now. It's free and to log in you find your school, add your details and then you can make email contact with your old school friends either in this country or abroad. An example of the kind of messages exchanged range from making contact or memories like 'Mrs. Stone, a mad English teacher who fully appreciated rather bizarre artistic interpretations of poetry (e.g. floating around the classroom like a leaf!) and often had to reverse her brain (accompanied by a strange gesture)'. If you would like to try it out the website address is www.friendsreunited.co.uk/.

Origins online

Just a year ago the Society of Genealogists went into partnership with Origins.net to provide some of the Society's library data online under the banner of English Origins. Over the last year Origins.net at www.origins.net has been adding substantially to the content available to Scots Origins and English Origins users.

Since launching English Origins in Januaiy a significant number of records can be searched including the marriage licence allegations index, Boyd's marriage index (covering a large area of East Anglia), Bank of England will extracts, archdeaconry Court of London wills index, London apprenticeship abstracts and London Consistory Court Depositions index.

The indexes may be searched free, although access to the site costs 6 allowing up to 150 records to be retrieved over a 48 hour period. Members of the Society of Genealogists receive a special discounted rate. For details about the index go to: www.englishorigins.com/bmidetails.html

BOPCRIS

Yet another acronym, but this one may reveal some interesting information for family historians. BOPCRIS is the British Official Publications Collaborative Reader Information Service (yes I know it's a mouthful, but bear with me). Official government publications cover a wide range of documents from Royal Commissions to statements of policy. Perhaps the most interesting of them are the many Royal Commissions set up by various governments during the nineteenth century from those on child labour to the study of the agricultural depression. For example those on agriculture often include evidence given by landowners in Berkshire on the state of their farms and how much they pay labourers. The website enables you to search and browse information from publications over the period 1688-1995. You can also read abstracts, and view detailed subject indexing, of key documents and then read the digitised full-text version of a limited number of these documents. BOPCRIS currently contains 23,279 references to key British Official Publications 1688-1995. The website address is www.bopcris.ac.uk/

Public Record Office events

The Public Record Office will be showing some of its treasures, including many Victorian Christmas cards and a seventeenth century recipe for mince pies at a Christmas Past exhibition open from December lo until the 21st. There will also be costumed tours of the Visitor Centre on December 29.

Dorset open day

Open up your new diaries and put in the Dorset Family History Society's open day which will be held on 20th April. It will be held at Oakmead College of Technology, Duck Lane, Bear Cross, Bournemouth.

Reading Branch meetings

Don't forget that from January the Reading Branch meetings will be held at the Church of Latter-day Saints, Church End Lane, Tilehurst on the last Thursday of the month.


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Berkshire Family History Society 2002

updated 31st May 2002