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This is a guest post by Stuart A. Raymond
What did you have to do in order to have your application to become a freeman of the City of Exeter to be rejected? For the period 1780-1802, the answer is to be found in a small alphabetical notebook held amongst Exeter City Archives in Devon Heritage Centre. One applicant, Captain John Tren, claimed the freedom by paternity, but could not prove that his brother, who had inherited the right to claim, was actually dead. Apart from him, all of those whose rejections were recorded claimed by right of apprenticeship. Apprenticeship (as those who have completed Pharos’s apprenticeship course will know) imposed numerous requirements on the apprentice. They had to be totally obedient to their master, and had to serve their full term of seven years under his instruction. Marriage was forbidden, as was any absence.
Several of those rejected were described as ‘disorderly apprentices’. In addition to being ‘disorderly’, Richard Milford ‘married before his time was out’. Others ran away; John Gray was accused of ‘entering on board a man of war’. Problems might be caused by a master going out of business; Philip Gove’s master ‘gave up trade and went abroad 2 years and upwards’; he therefore could not serve out his term. Indentures had to be indented; William Baker’s indentures were not, so he suffered rejection.
The freedom in Exeter at this date was important primarily because it conferred the right to vote. It may be suspected that, in some cases, the mayoral court actively looked for a reason to reject applicants whose politics were not their liking. Was William Baker one of their victims?
Some 52 applicants are listed in this notebook, which throws an interesting side light on life in Exeter at this time. The Society of Genealogists’ Genealogists’ magazine (vol. 32(2), 2016) has just published my transcript of this volume under the title ‘Rejected Applicants for the Freedom in Exeter, 1780-1802’.
 Book 227.
[Pharos adds: As well as Stuart’s article, this quarter’s Genealogists’ Magazine also has a very interesting article about Rose’s Act. If you are a member of the Society of Genealogists you can now opt to read the magazine online at their website, and all past editions as well.]
This post is by Pharos co-founder, Sherry Irvine.
We moved three months ago. We have done what many do at some point in retirement, moved to a much smaller home, one that is closer to family. The change precipitated lots of decisions about what would come with us on this next stage of our lives.
Furniture was the easiest decision – take only what fits. We were fortunate in having access to our house in advance of the move. It was painted, but it was also carefully measured and we planned what would go where.
Gardening things were also easy to deal with – not much to take when there are just two tiny areas to look after. Kitchen, no problem. This one is bigger. The major difficulty has been books and papers, (and knick knacks not far behind). I began with what I thought was ruthless weeding of my office bookshelves. Not ruthless enough. By moving day I had doubled the number of books that needed new homes. Papers were weeded, but not completely. We ran out of sorting time and we imagined we could live contentedly with a few stacks of file boxes for quite some time. That was a mistake. After about 6 weeks we were ready to take drastic action to get rid of the pyramid of boxes in the middle of the dining room. Well, we did it, but anyone challenged to find a dozen or more unpacked boxes would find most of them quite quickly.
So much of my family history material is on paper. I started a system of binders 35 years ago and that remains. Yes, I have digital files, text and photos and scans and downloads, but much of my work was done before the development of good software. I am not sorry about that. Sorting paper is something I know how to do.
I set to work sorting, tidying and tackled the problem of too little space and too many boxes. Hard work, however, being did was not clearing my head of a nagging thought. What am I sorting this stuff for?
I had no clear idea of how I would deal with it all, whether writing it up, giving it away or … that other fate of family history stuff I could not think about. The lack of storage space came to my rescue: as I concentrated on a logical arrangement of the binders and boxes my mind actually began generating a few ideas. I just let that happen as I set about figuring out shelf space for three-ring binders and went shopping for the right size of cabinet to fit in a 20 inch deep alcove. The cabinet turned up in a used furniture store, and I came up with my first project.
I will tell the story of my father’s life in words and pictures. This is familiar territory yet something special. I had a close relationship with my father, especially in the last several years of his life and I want to convey to our children and grandchildren what sort of a person he was. I want to take time to reflect on all my memories and to find out things I never knew. I want to talk about him with my siblings – I am the middle child and have an older and a younger brother – and discover the view from their perspectives.
All genealogists come up against this dilemma. There must be hundreds of ways out of it. I have decided to chronicle mine here in the Pharos blog. What about you? How have you tackled the challenge of what to do with your family history stuff?
About the author: Sherry is the author of Your English Ancestry (2nd ed. 1998) and Scottish Ancestry: Research Methods for Family Historians (2003) and co-author of Finding Your Canadian Ancestors (2007). From the start of her career she has been involved in local and professional organizations. In 2005, the Association of Professional Genealogists presented her with the Smallwood Award of Merit for services to the organization and to genealogy. In September 2015 Sherry retired from regular teaching but she has not left Pharos. She will return from time to time helping in the FHSS program or as a substitute teacher. Meanwhile all that free time, will be filled with her own research and seeing much more of her grandchildren.
The recent announcement that Findmypast and The National Archives http://www.findmypast.co.uk/1939register
are making available the National Registration Act 1939 ‘census’ is very exciting. This Act led to the population of Britain being issued with identity cards as the second World War got underway. A little bird tells us that we could see some of it happen before the end of 2015, and make no mistake, it is going to be huge. There are 40 million entries and 7,000 volumes to digitize. Many 20th century research brickwalls will come tumbling down as a result.
As there was no census in 1941 due to the war, and the 1931 England & Wales census returns were sadly lost to fire, the 1939 Registration Act census will be the most recent year genealogists will be able to combine information from both census and civil registration in order to locate people for a long time to come. The 1921 UK census will be released in 2022 after 100 years as has been the normal practice, (another 7 years to wait) but then there might be no major record sets from the 20th century until the 1951 census is made available in 2052, unless (possibly, maybe) we get access to searchable civil registration certificates online. The 1939 data is being released earlier than 100 years as the legislation which brought it into being is different from that used to carry out the normal 10 year census, regulated by the 1920 Census Act.
We have all seen how quickly the big data websites have rushed to provide us online access to all the available England & Wales census returns, the surviving Ireland census returns, as well as transcriptions from the Scottish census. Many other records, most of them partial or parts of bigger series, have come online as well. But which types of records are going to keep the big data websites growing over the coming decades do you think?
What would provide the biggest break-through for your own research? Should there be a concerted effort to get all remaining parish registers indexed? How about all English probate material pre 1858 in one place? Military muster rolls?
What will be the next big thing?
Genealogists are more used to doing the studying, rather than themselves being studied as a community or group. So it might surprise you to know that there are a number of academic social anthropologists who are studying us genealogists. Dr Fenella Cannell of the London School of Economics, published a very interesting paper in 2011 following her research into hobby genealogists. English ancestors: the moral possibilities of popular genealogy. It is unfortunately behind a paywall, although if you have access to JSTOR you may be able to get it. This is the abstract:
This article considers the meanings of ordinary genealogy for English practitioners in East Anglia, and in the popular BBC television series Who do you think you are? It argues against the view, most forcibly expressed by Segalen, that genealogy is a ‘narcissistic‘ pursuit which compensates for individual or collective deracination in modernity. Contra Schneider, it draws attention to family history as a form of care for the dead, and a moral terrain on which the English living and dead are mutually constituted as relatives. This permits a reconsideration of the analysis of ‘self’ in the anthropology of kinship, and its relation to the categories of religion and secularity. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 17, 462-480
Dr Cannell’s arguments are couched in the academic language of social anthropology because she is writing for other anthropologists. Nevertheless, we can take some interesting points away for our own discussions. Some anthropologists think we are engaged in a narcissistic pursuit, which seeks to reassure us about our identity. This is best expressed by people who talk about the search for ‘my roots’. But Dr Cannell argues that family historians are actually undertaking a form of ‘care for the dead’. She says that we are re-making kinship relations with the departed by treating both the living and the dead as kin. Furthermore, our discoveries open up so much more by actually being able to re-envision the past and thus they enable our ancestors to become real people again. That is a fascinating insight, and I feel the truth of it in my own relationship to my ‘dead people’ whom I study and get to know. Family historians often discover that the present is a more secure and stable place than the past and are brought up against the social injustices of the past. Thus by the collecting and recording of information about our ancestors, we are engaging in a form of tribute to those ancestors, the ordinary folk whom perhaps were so little regarded in their own lifetimes.
The comments that the previous post on this blog generated (Who are the serious genealogists?) prompted me to re-read Dr Cannell’s article and to think more about what genealogy or family history actually is and whether or not it is worthwhile. Naturally, the answers to these questions will depend on who is doing the asking. However, if just one of the things that genealogists are doing is changing how social anthropologists see the modern ‘self’, then that is all to the good, as well as surprising. But anthropologists would not be interested in us if family history had not become so popular world-wide. The fact of the matter is that family historians are relating to the past en-masse in a way that has never happened before and that is truly exceptional. By attempting to understand our ancestors’ lives, we are finding stories that would never otherwise have come to light. Through publishing family trees, creating our own websites and blogging we are also creating history in a way that would never have happened without us. I would argue that this is why the genealogy community, hobbyist or professional is so much more than just a bunch of enthusiasts putting names into trees.