Emma Jolly | Aug 1, 2022, 11:33 AM

August Highlighted Events

In August we recognise National Lighthouse Day with a talk by SoG staff genealogist, Else Churchill.

All events can be found on our events page.

Highlighted Event

Thursday, 4 August (2pm)

Customs and Excise, Coastguards & Trinity House Records in the SoG Collections

Join Else Churchill to learn about the unique and original 19th and early 20th century records held at the Society of Genealogists on Customs and Excise staff. Have a Customs and Excise officer in your family tree? Then this talk will be very useful to you.

Deposited with the Society by HM Revenue and Customs, this collection holds approximately 16,800 entries. It contains details of HM Customs and Excise staff born between 1833 and 1911, now available on the SoG website.

The Society’s Coastguards’ Index was collated by the late Eileen Stage and recorded on index cards along with copies of various documents. The information was gathered from a number of sources including work done by a team of Society volunteers. In more recent times, these index cards and documents have been scanned and indexed to allow easy access via SoG Data Online.

Else also looks at the Society's Trinity House Petitions collections (1787-1854). These records detail petitions to Trinity House made by seamen, or their families, who had fallen on hard times. Trinity House was responsible for supervising lighthouses and buoys around the English coast. In addition, they distributed charitable funds to those of the seafaring community in greatest need. Records can contain detailed information about the petitioner and family survivors.

A one-hour talk with Else Churchill, cost £10.00/£6.50 SoG members.

Book here.

Further Events

Thursday, 4 August (2pm)
Walk: Tudor London

A 90-minute walk with Diane Burstein, cost £12.00/£9.60 SoG members.

Saturdays, 6 August – 3 September (2-3pm + discussions)
Tracing your Female Ancestors

In this 5-week course you will find out about the sources that you can use to throw more light into the lives of your ancestresses and hear their voices. 

With tutors Else Churchill, Janet Few, Debbie Kennett, Barry Godfrey & Gillian Murphy. Cost £60.00/£48.00 SoG members.

Thursday, 11 August (2pm)
Walk: In the Footsteps of Dick Whittington

A 90-minute walk with Lester Hillman, cost £10.00/£8.00.

Saturday, 13 August (10:30am - 1pm)
Bridging the Gap & Digging into the Census

Get the most from census returns as well as tracing forwards from 1921

A half-day course with Jackie Depelle, cost £20.00/£16.00 SoG members.

Wednesday, 17 August (2 - 3:30pm)
Lunchtime Chat: Who are we and why do we do it?

A 90-minute social event with Else Churchill, SoG members only, free of charge but you must book your place.

Saturday, 20 August (10:30am)
Carrying the Can - the UK Cotton Industry; Its Rise and Fall and our Ancestors' Place in It

Join Adele Emm in the dark satanic mills.

A one-hour talk, cost £10.00/£6.50 SoG members.

Saturday, 27 August (10:30)
Using Funeral and Burial Records for Research and Genealogy

A look at the information held in the largely untapped resource of funeral directing records.

A one-hour talk, Brian Parsons, cost £10.00/£6.50 SoG members.

Taking place on Tuesday evenings, starting 6 September
Coming up: Watch for our ten-part short course, Lost in London

One-sixth of the population of England and Wales live in the London area, and a high proportion of the population has always lived in London. Most genealogists, therefore, will have, sooner or later, to tackle the tracing of London ancestry.

This ten-week course covers how to use London archives and repositories to learn more about your Londoner ancestors as well as how the geography of London affected the lives of our ancestors.

What will the course cover?

· London repositories

· Charles Booth’s London Poverty Maps

· Parish registers, electoral registers, land tax records, and others held at London Metropolitan Archives

· The development of the commercial docks along the Thames and the impact it had on London

· How the Port of London Archive can be used for family history research

· Livery Companies, Watermen and Lightermen records

· London trade directories

· London’s streets and railways

Every Tuesday evening, 6-7:30pm (includes discussions) from 6 September to 8 November 2022 on Zoom. Most classes will be recorded and available to students for two weeks. Cost £200.00/£160.00 SoG members. See the full programme here. 

Talk review by Lori Weinstein: ‘Exploring your Ancestor’s Parish Church and Churchyard’ with Celia Heritage (18 June 2022)


Celia began her talk by pointing out that parish churches and churchyards are not only of interest to family historians but also to those with an interest in local and social history and archaeology. Anyone taking a good look around our parish churches should be able to find something of interest. Celia gave us a fascinating insight into what the church and churchyards would have been like for our ancestors in earlier centuries.

In an overview of the early history of the Christian Church in England and Wales, Celia noted that many researchers find it surprising how old their ancestor’s parish church really is. Many were built on the site of an even earlier church. Early churchyards often had secular uses and were generally not used for burials until the tenth century.

We learned about the differences between Pre and Post-Reformation churches, and how our Pre-Reformation churches would have been much more colourful, with a display of wall paintings, sculptures and roods, geared particularly towards our ancestors who were illiterate. Celia provided many fascinating photographic examples. The so-called “Doom Painting,” depicting the last day of judgement, appears amusing to modern eyes but its purpose was to inspire fear of divine retribution and thereby ensure an obedient population.

Many churchyards evolved quite differently from their neighbouring parish. A church's walls can often contain clues to how materials were reused over the years and may give insight into the building’s history. She advised us to visit, not only to do the research but to ‘get the ancestral vibe’.

When looking for memorials, Celia noted the majority of our ancestors would not have been able to afford a headstone until the early 20th century. Do you know your ancestor had a gravestone but failed to find it? Where did it go? It is possible that it was damaged, removed for renovations, or even buried. Celia advised having a good walk around the church and churchyard while bearing in mind that some memorials may not be in their original positions.

To illustrate the point, she showed two photographs of the parish churchyard of Margate St John’s, the first taken in the 1860s and the other taken in by Celia in 2019. One could easily see how many gravestones had disappeared in the intervening years.

We looked at the many different types of graves, both above and below ground, as well as tombs.

Celia gave us a huge amount of information in just an hour, but still only scratched the surface of such a large topic. More detailed information can be found in her recently published book Cemeteries & Graveyards: A Guide for Family and Local Historians in England and Wales which is available from Pen & Sword publishers.

Don’t forget to have a look at the Society of Genealogists’ new Memorial Cards Collection here.

Please contact us for more information

Upcoming talks and events

Irish Family History for Beginners & Refreshers
10 September

Do you have Irish ancestors on your family tree? What is a townland?  What is the difference between a civil and a church parish? Join Roz McCutcheon and Jill Williams for a half-day course that will answer these questions and many more.     

We will look at the context and background of Irish records, the records you need to get started with your Irish family research, how to find them and how to use them. Includes the latest additions to Irish records found online.

Bring your questions along for discussion.


Lunchtime Chat: Who are we and why do we do it?
17 August

Else Churchill is in our virtual SoG common room ready for a chat. She will discuss the reasons we research our family history. Is it for health reasons, solving a family mystery or because we have an overall curiosity about where we came from?

You can take part in the discussions about how research can transform our ancestors from just a name on the family tree to a real person who once lived. Free of charge, SoG Members only.

Carrying the Can - the UK Cotton Industry
20 August

It’s true that the UK grows no cotton. But, in the 19th century,the UK produced half the world's cotton cloth. By 1800, 95% of the world's spindles were based here. So it's not surprising that many of us claim cotton factory workers in our family trees.

In this talk, AdèleEmm explains the history of the UK's cotton textile production, when and why it arrived, and what caused it to decline, and our ancestors' place in it

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