The meeting started with the sad announcement by the President, Mary Dicken,
that two SVHS members had recently died, these being Percy Bishop and Mary
Challis, both had been members since the Society was founded.
Somewhat surprisingly, the SVHS has not had a speaker on genealogy, or as its more usually called, family history until the February meeting when this situation was enthusiastically rectified by Wendy Doyle. She is the Projects Coordinator of the Cambridgeshire Family History Society and is presently involved in transcribing all of the Cambridgeshire Parish Records, including that of Sawston which will be available shortly.
When starting her presentation she gave a health warning about the seriously addictive nature of undertaking family history research, just in case anybody wanted to litigate on the grounds of not knowing what they were letting themselves in for!
Wendy had become addicted as a result of being shown a photo of her Great Aunt Polly which had been under her uncles bed for decades. The picture was of a child in a flowing dress, supporting the suggestion that Polly's mother was a dress maker. This is the sort of clue which can lead to a fascinating journey, giving often very unexpected results.
A useful starting point is to get as much useful information as possible from family members, especially the older ones, using the following sources:
Relationships, dates, places, anecdotal evidence, photos and written information from diaries, certificates, etc. The information thus obtained can then help to point the researcher into the most productive (hopefully) direction who can then attempt to get further information from the following sources:
Parish Registers giving dates on births, marriages and funerals carried out at the church. The registers may be incomplete, missing, or the sought ancestor was just not registered there. After 1837 there was a compulsory registration of B, M and Ds which is much more complete, but still may not necessarily give fully accurate information. Duplicate copies of any certificate can be readily obtained, for a fee.
Also very useful are the census records which started in 1841 and then every 10 years until the last one in 2001. However, under the 100 year rule, the latest census available is 1901 so for the 1911 census it is necessary to wait until 2011.
A very useful and potentially informative source are wills. These can often have much valuable information about the deceased family members. Copies of wills can be readily obtained from the National Archive Centre at Kew or the Family Records Centre, Myddleton Ave, EC1. Again, this service is not free.
Another useful, if not somewhat unexpected source is from the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) who have built up an enormous archive, initiated by a desire to give retrospective baptism to those who did not enjoy(?) this service while alive.
For those who are looking locally, the Cambridgeshire Collection at the Central Library and the County Archives are very useful. The CFHS is also very willing to help with local family history information, contactable by email: firstname.lastname@example.org Finally, but inevitably, Wendy mentioned the Internet which is now proving to be an enormous boon to FH researchers with literally hundreds if not thousands of web sites available. Clearly a PC with Internet access is a must have for those wanting to carry out any serious family historical research.
The SVHS archive is now in the process of being transferred to the new PC Office in Link Road. At this time it is not certain if the new History Room will be open at the next open day which is due on Saturday, March 11th. It is also hoped to have some other opening times also available. Hopefully it should be possible to give some more definite times in the March bulletin. Alternatively contact Bryan Howe on 833963 for the latest update.