I do hope that you have all had a lovely Christmas break with your families. I have been lucky enough to have my family to us this year. Christmas is always a little bittersweet, celebrating with those that are here whilst thinking of those now absent. There is, however, little time for melancholy in our house with an incredibly excited six year-old counting down “How many sleeps?”
As we approach the end of the year I always find myself reflecting upon the year just coming to an end. The last couple of months have contained some unpleasantness for Professional Family History as my last blog post detailed, partly due to my hoping to avoid unpleasantness for so long. However, there have been many more positives to counter the negatives.
In July of this year I was proud to be awarded the IHGS (Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies) Higher Certificate in Genealogy. There are a number of routes to this qualification but for me it followed three years of intensive learning and assignment writing with the constant support of my fabulous tutor +Les Mitchinson. I was immensely pleased to be given the added award of a Distinction especially when I discovered that myself and fellow genealogist, Julia Henderson, were only the third and fourth individuals to have ever achieved this.
November marked my third year of trading as Professional Family History. Over this time I have had some wonderful clients. Some have been with me since the beginning, some I have only met recently. We have had some frustrations during research this year but also some wonderful successes.
It is not appropriate here to mention all the cases worked on this year but as a couple of examples: A report to one of my longest standing clients triggered a long-forgotten memory of a family story in her elderly mother, from many years ago, and this has confirmed the particular research area to target next.
One of my favourite research moments was a “brick wall buster”. I have a lovely client who came to me with many years research and a “hunch” as to where earlier ancestors originated. I’m sure we all have moments like this in our own research during our continued search for missing information: “I have possibilities A, B and C but I have a strong feeling it must be C”. I am simplifying things here, there was some supporting information in favour of C but no EVIDENCE. As professionals we must counsel against such feelings and advocate thorough research to prove or disprove theories. My client and I have been on a journey looking at records for two parishes in Suffolk some distance apart. Towards the later part of the year I found the document confirming that the individual who had been living in parish B was born in parish A. There is more to consider but it was a wonderful breakthrough.
There have also been some interesting sources used this year. One I must mention as it is so often overlooked are the records of Freemen. One of my clients has ancestors who were admitted as Freemen to the Borough of Sudbury. Freeman records are often overlooked as “unlikely to contain my relative” but when they do they can provide a host of information.
In general terms there were four means of being admitted as a Freeman to a borough or guild: servitude, via apprenticeship, patrimony, by being the son of a freeman, redemption, by purchase, and honour, granted on an honorary basis.
An example of an entry in the admission registers is “…Samuel Godfrey of London Baker son of Thomas Godfrey late of the said Borough Butcher deceased is a freeman of the said Borough and Hath the right to vote for members to serve in Parliament for this Borough…. [07 March 1733]”. It is readily observed how the one entry provides information on family relationships, occupations and places of residence and, in this case, provides a date by which the father had died.
As I look forward to 2014 it is with some excitement. I have research planned over the first few months, some on continued cases, some with new clients. I also have a few professional “firsts” in the pipeline that I am very much looking forward to.
To close, I wish you all a Happy New Year and hope that 2014 brings you everything you wish for.