An Author in the Family

Fred has lived with us for about six months. We remembered him on the centenary of his death, 9th May 2016. We shall always remember him because he is the subject of our son Huw’s first published book, General Pa.   Huw had been hired by Reggie Heyworth, the owner of the Cotswold Wildlife Park,…

Ancestral likes and dislikes

The man who is now the British Foreign Secretary had, a few weeks before his appointment, written about the President of the United States of America having an ‘ancestral dislike of the British Empire’ (see the Independent, 22 April 2016). Anything about Ancestry gets the instant attention of a Genealogist, so Boris Johnson’s über-provocative phrase…

The name’s Bond…

Pity the mediaeval serf. Not because of his status or his poverty, but because he has been misunderstood for centuries. His Latin name is Nativus (hers is of course Nativa). How are they translated into English when we find them in Latin manorial court rolls? Some translators use a term common in late mediaeval and…

Home

Remember the WDYTYA when Mark Gatiss discovered his ancestral home in Ireland? “Wonderful to find something as tangible as this… a homestead.” Don’t you think every family historian should have that ‘homestead moment’? We recently took a friend walkabout in our (non-identical) ‘twin’ villages of East and West Leake.  A little online research using Ancestry…

Per unum annum revolutum usque ad festum Petronille virginis

I am casting my accounts because my business year has just ended. My accounting year ends on 31 May, not our UK fiscal new year’s day of 5th April, which is of course ‘Old Lady Day’. Until 1752, the New Year according to the traditional calendar was 25th March – the Annunciation of the Blessed…

A Girl named Kirk

Known as is a column in the list of students attending my Reading and Interpretation seminars at UCL.  Preferred name is often a field in a job application form.  We might otherwise make the culturally-conditioned assumption that a person’s registered first name is for informal use and the last name for formal contexts. The Canadian Language Museum Blog last…

Points of reference

What are the horizons of history?  We’re all familiar with the watershed between ‘Prehistory’ and ‘History’ – the survival of written records – but there’s a more recent horizon of around 200 years in the British Isles.  It’s the advent of accurate large scale mapping. Landmark Solutions will sell you ‘Highly accurate georeferenced data’ back…

Potsherds as Proxy for Population data

I like this kind of research, where scarcity of written sources forces historians into innovation and ingenuity. Here, Carenza Lewis and her many volunteer archaeologists have counted discarded fragments of pottery to demonstrate the sudden reduction in consumption in Eastern England after the plague years 1356-50. Source: ‘Eye-watering’ scale of Black Death’s impact on Eng……

Art trouvé

‘Hold on – is this a book or a film?’ The researcher was telling me the story she was writing as a result of her long research in the private archive in which I had just begun to work as archivist. It sounded very like the opening scene of a drama: a fire in the grate…

Parchment names, paper names

“Katerina de Caldewelle”: do I translate her Katherine of Caldewelle, Katherine de Caldewelle or just Katherine Caldewelle? How about William Faber? Should I just call him Smith? Or was he William the Smith? Is it Adam Bercarius or Adam the Shepherd? “Does any of this matter?” I hear you ask. Yes, it does, if the…

‘It could be you’

It was like the parish-council scenes in the Vicar of Dibley. We sat round a trestle table by the tea urn at the back of 15th-century Lambley Parish Church.  They were dark autumn evenings, so we didn’t get the benefit of Lord Cromwell’s tall clear Perpendicular nave windows but instead peered at the easel supporting…

How you say it

“Never make fun of someone if they mispronounce a word. It means they learned it by reading.” (Tweet by @NatGeoEducation, 4 April 2016) It’s a classic problem: learning new words only through reading. Does it matter? Sometimes, yes. I tell my palaeography students to read their transcriptions aloud. They will get used to the rhythm…