I don’t read a lot of fiction. I don’t need to, because some of the real stories I have come across in documents held in The National Archives are just as exciting and dramatic as any novel.
HO 45/7900 Registration of births, etc: Fraudulent abstraction of a leaf from the registers for St Pancras Parish: baptism of Elizabeth Laura Keeling
A catalogue search for ‘fraud’ turned up an item of Home Office correspondence entitled ‘Registration of births, etc: Fraudulent abstraction of a leaf from the registers for St Pancras Parish: baptism of Elizabeth Laura Keeling’ dated 1866-1867 HO 45/7900. I thought there must be an interesting story behind this incident, so I ordered the file, which turned out to be a long letter of complaint to the Home Secretary from Mr Prickett of Bridlington. He gave a lengthy account of how Captain George Boynton had come to marry Mr Prickett’s daughter, Elizabeth Ann, very much against her parents’ wishes.
George Hebblethwaite Lutton Boynton was one of the youngest of the 13 children of Sir Henry, the 9th Baronet Boynton, and his wife Mary. This was a wealthy family, but since George had three older brothers he was not going to inherit the title, the money or the family home, Burton Agnes Hall. He must have decided at an early age that his best chance of making money would be to marry it. This is exactly what he did, having found himself a young heiress, Elizabeth Laura Keeling. Her father died in 1832 when she was a baby, leaving his substantial fortune to her, his only child. Not only that, he left it to her outright; under the law at that time a married woman had no separate legal existence from her husband, so that if she Elizabeth Laura married, all of her property would now belong to her husband. She was only 17 when she and George were married by licence at St George Hanover Square.
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A little over a year ago, we developed a new feature in Discovery (our catalogue) that allows our users to add their own tags to our records. Tags are a way for you to add more descriptive metadata to our records to make them more findable.
Will of William Snelgrave, Gentleman of Stepney, Middlesex (catalogue ref: PROB 11/732/98)
When we launched the feature we weren’t really sure how our users would engage with it, or what types of tags they would attach to our records. There are now over 5,000 tags attached to more than 7,500 documents, and that number is growing daily. People tag for all sorts of reasons – to bookmark records they are interested in, to help improve the findability of poorly described records, for research purposes and for fun.
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From Banana to Vesuvius…
When one thinks of the RAF in the Second World War, most people have visions of squadrons of Spitfires and Hurricanes over Kent in 1940, or the Dambusters of 617 squadron. The Operational Record Books (‘ORBs’ or more formally RAF Forms 540 and 541) of the squadrons have always been very popular records and are now online. But nearly every unit of the RAF had to compile and submit ORBs, and the majority of these units were not squadrons at all, but an amazing variety of other units, and their ORBs have been gathered together in record series AIR 29 as ‘Miscellaneous Units’.
1 Armoured Car Company, Khormaksar, Aden 1946 (AIR 29/57)
For the last two years, a small team of staff have been working through the AIR 29s up to the end of the Second World War, improving and expanding the catalogue descriptions, to make the records easier to locate. Many of the original descriptions were very brief, and relied heavily on unexplained abbreviations, which didn’t make searching very easy (anyone want to guess at what ‘AACU’ or ‘Beam ATF’ stood for?).
In going through the first 1,212 pieces of the series, we have found units completely missed from the catalogue, unravelled all of the abbreviations, corrected dates and detailed the changes of unit name or location. A typical description before the project was ‘AIR 29/811: No. 428, Buc’. This has now been expanded to ’428 Repair and Salvage Unit, based at Buc, France (RSU)’. Unit abbreviations were retained as they often appear on airmen’s service records from this period. Place-name descriptions were also improved so that researchers can use the records even if they do not know which units were in which locations. Continue reading »
‘Too young to cross the road, we were deported to the other side of the world to cold, cruel institutions. We were robbed of our identities, our dignity and our families. Our parents lost their children.’
International Association of Former Child Migrants and Their Families
A boy ploughing at Dr. Barnardo's Industrial Farm, Russell, Manitoba, c. 1900. CC Source: www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/022/f1/a117285.jpg
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, around 80,000 children were sent abroad to Canada to work as labourers or domestic servants. They were children of poor families, some were orphans, but by no means all, most under the age of 14.
They were sent by various charitable organisations including Thomas Barnado’s, keen to ‘solve’ the problem of pauper children in Britain without necessarily implementing social change back home. Continue reading »
Did you know that The National Archives has a Business Archives Advice Manager? Alex Ritchie is the man in question, and I thought today’s blog should introduce you to some elements of his work. It’s all part of a national strategy for business archives, in which The National Archives is a partner.
The home of the archives at F Hoffmann-La Roche
What’s so special about business archives?
The written heritage of Britain is not only in public hands, and represents more than individuals, families and organisations. Any commercial entity, from massive international corporations to small family businesses and sole traders, needs to maintain records to succeed. They keep accounts, staff records and production records. Designs, publicity, staff records and product images are also kept. Their value can be anything from heritage branding to patent information crucial to company income or Victorian engineering diagrams for structures still in active use today. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that many businesses retain an archive and that they are among the richest collections for historical research.
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We are always looking for new and better ways to make the content of the UK Government Web Archive accessible. One of the most innovative and exciting developments in this area is Memento, which was developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory in the USA.
Memento aims to add a time dimension to the web, by allowing users access to a specific web resource (for example, a web page, a document, or data) now, and at some point in the past, by using web archives. It harnesses an important principle of the web: the Unique Resource Identifier (URI). URIs identify specific resources on the web and, as the web archive preserves the original URI and ‘knows’ when that resource was captured, it can ‘slice’ into the web archive to show it to the user. Continue reading »
For the first time, records of aliens who settled in Britain and who became British citizens through the process of naturalisation are available to search by name and nationality and download as part of our online collection. The collection covers the period 1801 to 1871 and includes a small number of early papers relating to denization (a form of British citizenship that conferred some but not all rights of a British subject), and naturalisation by Act of Parliament; but the bulk of the papers relate to those who became British after 1844, when the process for becoming British was very much simplified.
In that year, the Naturalization Act (7 & 8 Vict. c. 66) provided that every alien residing in Great Britain with intent to settle should present a memorial to the Secretary of State stating their age, trade and duration of residence. Thereupon, the Secretary of State would issue to the applicant a certificate granting rights of a natural born subject with the exception of the right of being of the Privy Council or parliament. The Act maintained the taking of the oath of allegiance and Act of Succession and provided that any woman married to a natural born or naturalised person was deemed naturalised herself. It further stipulated that applicants wishing to become naturalised citizens should state their intention to reside and settle in Great Britain. This newly available collection of records consists of the memorials of over 7,000 aliens issued under the 1844 Act, which remained in force until 1871 (copies of the accompanying certificates of naturalisation are in the series C 54).
Design for Great Exhibition wallpaper (catalogue ref: BT 43/288/78974)
There is a rich mix of cases from across the world, but most relate to subjects from Europe, as, during this period, immigrants arrived from a number of European countries, notably France and German states, but also – in smaller numbers – from Italian states, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, Russian, Poland, and Sweden. Not all of these individuals settled in the UK; many were merchants or people simply visiting the country. The majority were equipped with skills, however. Many were artistic, such as musicians, painters and artisans.
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The idea for writing The Children of Henry VIII appealed to me mainly because I’d got fed up with people from tv companies or guides in stately homes trying to tell me that Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn came to visit X or Y places as a family, with baby Elizabeth in one or other of their arms. In reality, Henry VIII always followed the protocol laid down in the Royal Book as this had been revised and updated by his grandmother Margaret Beaufort in 1493, which meant that all his four children were brought up in nurseries set apart from where their parents were living, often many miles apart.
The Children of Henry VIII, by John Guy
The family were together only on a handful of occasions in Henry’s entire reign, and none of his children spent much time alone with either him or their respective mothers. I wanted to include Henry Fitzroy, the king’s illegitimate son, who tends to be written out of history, since he was a crucial part of the story in the earlier years. But I particularly wanted to shed light on the difficult personal relationships between the squabbling siblings, who of course all had different mothers, since I thought this might improve our understanding of the period as a whole. Until I started to write this book, I hadn’t fully appreciated the degree of jealousy, mutual distrust and sibling rivalry between the children, or how far their childhood experiences shaped their characters and subsequent lives.
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The approximate position of ‘C’ Company, 2/18 London Regiment on 1-2 May 1918. Detail from a sketch map within the unit war diary. (Reference: WO 95/4670)
Frederick William Beament, my great grandmother’s younger brother, fought in the British Army during the First World War. He died on 2 May 1918, aged just 21.
Frederick in his army uniform, with his mother, Elizabeth. (Private collection)
In researching this blog post for our My Tommy’s War series, I had two major advantages. Firstly, I already knew some information about Frederick. Much of this knowledge had been passed down through successive generations of the family and other details had been researched by relatives on my father’s side more recently. Secondly, I already knew about some sources at The National Archives that would be likely to help me find out more about Frederick, because advising people about records held here is part of my job.
Who was Frederick?
Frederick was born on 23 June 1896 in Holborn, in central London, the youngest of at least eight children. His father, George, died when he was very young and his widowed mother, Elizabeth, brought up the younger children alone. Like his father and many of his siblings, Frederick started work in the printing industry when he left school. In the 1911 census, when he was 14 years old, his occupation is stated as ‘reading boy’ for a printing firm.
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The Cabinet Papers website is a resource where researchers can investigate digitised Cabinet documents, whether they are conclusions from meetings, memoranda, or precedent books, to better understand the decision-making process in government, and the concept of Cabinet collective responsibility. Covering the period from 1916, when the Cabinet Office was established, to when the most recent files released following 30 year closure are added (currently 1982), the Cabinet Papers site allows us to trace high level decisions from Lloyd George’s government during the Great War, Churchill’s War Cabinet, Attlee’s post-war social reforms, through to Thatcher’s ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ dichotomy in the early 1980s.
Another interesting set of documents which can be found on the Cabinet Papers site – which take slightly longer to reach us – is the Cabinet Secretary’s Notebook. This set of documents, which constitutes the series CAB 195, is one of those ‘does-what-it-says-on-the-tin’ series, consisting of hand-written notes of cabinet meetings taken by the Cabinet Secretary. The notebooks offer a very useful – not to mention interesting – addition to studying the conclusions of cabinet meetings. Since 1919 only conclusions from cabinet meetings were collected (as opposed to minutes) reflecting a desire to project collective responsibility and simply record agreement, but the Cabinet Secretary’s notebook provides an extra level of detail. The notebooks unveil the content of cabinet discussions somewhat.
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