10 Genealogy Goals for 2015

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This year I am going to join a number of other family historians (such as Andrew Martin) in publicly setting out some ‘New Year’s resolutions’ – genealogy goals for 2015. On a day-to-day basis I will be carrying on where I left off at the end of 2014, by continuing to check new record sets and other new sources of information as they are released, so that I can extract info on members of the Atcherley family and add it to my research. But I want also to set some targets, and commit to doing something extra. What could possibly go wrong?

1. Write at least 30 new articles for this website

The Atcherley family is full of fascinating stories which I want to share through this website, knowing that in the course of writing them I usually end up reviewing all that I know about the Atcherleys in question, checking my sources, and finding new facts. In 2014 I managed to add 28 new articles and a major re-write of an existing story, so my goal for 2015 is to post a total of at least 30 new or extensively re-written articles. And I will watch with interest the progress of the Genealogy Do-Over and 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenges. Both of those challenges are beyond me at present.

Update: So far this year (as of 22 Feb 2015) I have added eight new articles.

2. Complete the update of this website’s family tree pages

Last year I started overhauling the Atcherley family tree pages, which had remained largely unchanged since they were first added to the website several years ago. However I only managed to update four of the twelve tree pages, so this year my aim is to complete the job. And then try to keep them in synch with my research! If I can find the time I will add links from the people in the tree pages, to the articles about them elsewhere on the site (with return links from the articles), and maybe also add family tree diagrams, but these are optional extras.

Update: Goal achieved! Tree page for John Atcherley of Waters Upton and his descendants reviewed 2 Jan 2015. Tree page for Henry Atcherley of Kinnersley reviewed 10 Jan 2015. Tree page for Thomas Atcherley of Marton updated 18 Jan 2015. Tree page for Richard Atcherley of Marton updated 24 Jan 2015. Tree page for Thomas Atcherley of Twyford updated 7 Feb 2015. Tree page for Richard Atcherley of Weston updated 8 Feb 2015. Tree page for William Atcherley of Shrewsbury updated 9 Feb 2015. Tree page for Edward Atcherley of Wolverhampton updated 11 Feb 2015.

My Atcherley family trees at Ancestry, and my main offline tree (which I maintain using RootsMagic) include many descendants of female lines plus allied families – I will look into the possibility of getting some of that additional genealogical information added to this site through static or dynamic family tree pages. No promises on that though!

3. Make at least two visits to The National Archives to view documents held there relating to the Atcherley family

At the end of 2014 I made my first ever visit to The National Archives at Kew – the documents I looked at and photographed (dating back to 1623 and 1748) will hopefully provide material for two of the 30 new articles I aim to add to the website this year!

Although there is a huge and ever-increasing number of historical records available online, there are many more documents tucked away in archives across the UK (and beyond). The majority of these will probably never be digitised, at least not in the near future, so the secrets they hold can only be revealed by visiting the archives and looking at them (or arranging for someone else to do so and send digital photos). I want to do exactly that, in respect of some of the tantalising documents concerning Atcherleys, by making at least two further visits to TNA in 2015 (and if I can manage it, other archives too).

Update: My first TNA visit of 2015 is pencilled in for 14 March.

4. Approach the College of Arms regarding Atcherley information held

Several members of the Atcherley family had coats of arms which were registered with the College of Arms in London. In all probability they provided genealogical information as part of the process, some of which may include details not available from other sources. I am also aware of the intriguing possibility that one branch of the Atcherley family disputed the right of another branch to display their coat of arms! I have always meant to get around to contacting the College of Arms to find out what information they may be able to provide and at what cost. 2015 will, I hope, be the year I get ‘a round tuit’!

5. Re-join the Shropshire Family History Society

Shropshire is ‘Atcherley Central’ and because of that, of all the local family history societies across the UK, the Salopian society is the logical choice for me. I did join up during a visit to Shrewsbury in 2011, when I attended one of the SFHS meetings (at which the Society of Genealogists’s Else Churchill was the speaker). Somehow though I managed to let my subscription lapse. 2015 is the year in which to put that right.

6. Join the Society of Genealogists

I can’t quite believe that after more than seven years of exploring my own and others’ family trees, I haven’t joined the Society of Genealogists. The fact that most of the society’s hoard of genealogical gems is only available in its London HQ (meaning that the savings made in accessing them as a member are vastly exceeded by the cost of train fares) probably has much to do with this. But more of what the SoG holds is being made available online, and on top of that the society works for all genealogists at a national level. Better late than never, as they say, though I may wait just a little longer to see if the £10 joining fee is waived at WDYTYA Live! In Birmingham. Oops, I’m getting ahead of myself there …

Update: Goal achieved! I joined the Society of Genealogists on 1 February 2015. The £10 joining fee was waived thanks to a promotional code from my Findmypast First membership.

7. Attend WDYTYA Live! In Birmingham

The move of the UK’s greatest genealogical gathering, WDYTYA Live, from London to Birmingham puts it much closer to me and far easier for me to get to. Having only been to one of the London events, I really should attend this year, and maybe even for more than one of the three days.  It’s a chance to see at first hand what the people who provide our family history fix have to offer, and an opportunity to listen to and pick up tips from some expert speakers. It is also looks like a great event at which to meet in person some of the fab folk I’ve so far only ‘met’ online.

There are other events I would like to get to in 2015 too, personal circumstances permitting. I’m making no commitments at this stage though.

8. Contribute to a transcription project

There is a wealth of genealogical data online provided gratis, free of charge and for nothing, thanks to the efforts of a world-wide army of volunteer transcribers. I have made a few small contributions in the past, for example through Find A Grave and the 1940 US census transcription project, but overall I have very much been a taker rather than a giver of free family history stuff. So, without choosing a project right now or making rash promises of how much time I can contribute, I will endeavour to give something back to the family tree tracing community this year.

9. Support campaigns against further cuts to archive, library, museum and heritage services

In many ways, we are currently living in what appears to be a Golden Age of genealogy. So many records and other sources of information are so much more accessible now, and more are joining them all the time. Yet, while all this is going on, the accessibility of other records and sources of information is being reduced. The UK Government’s austerity measures have resulted in huge funding cuts for archives, libraries, museums and other heritage services – the result being reductions in opening hours, loss of staff and their expertise, and in some cases the closure of some of those services. We are slowly losing valuable opportunities to connect with our rich and precious heritage, with our personal and connected histories.

So in 2015 I will watch out for campaigns against these cuts, and do what I can to support them, even if only by signing a petition.

Update: On 7 Jan 2015 I signed an online petition at Change.org calling on George Osborne to reverse current and future cuts to the Imperial War Museum’s annual operating grant (and I made a donation to help promote the petition further). I also signed another petition at Change.org calling for the reversal of cuts to the Library of Birmingham (pictured above). The library includes Birmingham’s archive services (The Iron Room, a brilliant genealogy and family history resource) which would suffer along with the library. I have since then continued to promote both campaigns via social media.

10. Campaign for the digitisation of historic English and Welsh birth, marriage and death registers

If I want an historic birth, marriage or death record from the statutory registers of Scotland, I can log on to the Scotland’s People website and download a digital copy for a very reasonable fee. Historic BMD records from the registers of Northern Ireland are also now available online. Last year, I was able to get a copy of a death certificate for Jack Rowland Atcherley, from Queensland, Australia, for about the same cost as an English or Welsh BMD certificate, but as an instant digital download. But although I can order an English or Welsh BMD certificate online via the GRO website, I then have to wait about a week for a certified, paper copy to arrive by post, at a cost far in excess of that charged by Scotland’s People for a digital version of a record that often provides more information! Sadly the GRO, part of HM Passport Office, seems to be firmly rooted in the last century.

On 18 November 2014, Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Scott of Needham Market put forward an amendment to the Deregulation Bill, with a view to making BMD certificates more accessible. The amendment in the form proposed was rejected, but Government spokesman Lord Wallace of Saltaire said that officials in the Home Office would be “happy to meet with her and discuss the issue further”. A representative from the Liberal Democrat Whips’ Office told Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine that they “expected Government and cross-party support” for the amendment when it is debated in early 2015.

There is an e-petition on the HM Government website, which is well worth signing (it closes on 25 March 2015). However, although this petition mentions the benefits of digitising historic BMD registers, the only specific demand made by it is for the historic registers to be made available for inspection at county record offices or at The National Archives.

To help ensure that progress is made, I believe our elected representatives in England and Wales must be made aware of the public appetite for modernising access to our historic BMD records (and for the provision of similar services to those offered in Scotland and Northern Ireland). The most effective way of doing this would be for genealogists and family historians to write to their own MPs expressing their views – a quick and easy way to do this is though the WriteToThem website. I will certainly be contacting my MP!

Update: On 6 Feb 2015 the Society of Genealogists confirmed that the Government has accepted an amendment to the Deregulation Bill. This is an important step forward, but the Bill has yet to complete its passage through Parliament and become law, and if or when that happens, the Government (most likely the next Government) will need to put in place suitable regulations. Our MPs still need to know how much we want this to happen!


Image credits. The National Archives, Kew: photo by the author. Round Tuit: public domain image from Wikimedia Commons. Library of Birmingham: photo by the author. Extract from GRO marriage certificate for Albert Edward Chalenor and Fanny Atcherley: Image posted in compliance with General Register Office copyright guidance.


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Atcherleys of Christmas Past, Part 2

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< Back to Atcherleys of Christmas Past, Part 1

A world away from the privations of 20th century battlefields and POW camps, the well-to-do in early 19th century England had a wide range of delicacies from which to choose at Christmas. On 10 December 1828 Benjamin Jones of Shrewsbury, who had married Bell Atcherley of that town five years earlier, placed the following advertisement in the Salopian Journal:

WYLE-COP, SHREWSBURY
Wholesale and Retail
GROCER, TEA DEALER, CHEESE, BUTTER, AND HOP FACTOR
BENJAMIN JONES
Returns his most grateful Thanks to his Friends and the Public in general, for the very liberal Encouragement and Support he has met with since his Commencement in the above Situation; and begs Leave to inform them, that he has just received his Christmas Supply of fine, rich, new FRUIT, which consists of fine Zante Currants, large Valencia Raisins, fine Turkey Ditto, fine [Calabria?] Ditto, new Denia Ditto for Wine, fine Green Portugal Grapes, large Bunch Muscatel Raisins, fine Pulled and Flat Figs, Imperial French Plums and Prunes, Jordan and French Almonds, Lemons, and Oranges, Lemon, Orange, and Citron Candied Peel, with every other Article in the general Tea and Grocery Business, of the very first Quality …

Some sought to profit from Christmas in other ways, but fell foul of the law. In February 1894 William Owen, a grocer of Welsh Frankton in Shropshire, found himself before County Petty Sessions at Oswestry. The Justices of the Peace that day, all members of the local gentry or clergy, included Francis Robinson Hartland Atcherley. Owen was charged, by Superintendent Langford, with “selling tickets at the Frankton Club House in a lottery not authorised by Act of Parliament and called a Christmas draw.” For this offence against the Lottery Act, which had presumably taken place sometime during the previous December, he was fined one shilling, plus 6s. 6d. costs.

Frank Atcherley’s uncle David Francis Atcherley had also been a Justice of the Peace. On 20 January 1873 he sat with the Reverend C O Kenyon at the Baschurch Petty Sessions, where two of the defendants were each charged, in effect, with having had rather too merry a Christmas. Richard Jones pleaded guilty to being drunk and riotous on Christmas night and was fined 10s. and 6s. 9d. costs. George Jones meanwhile “was charged with being drunk and refusing to quit the Powis Arms, Ruyton, kept by Mrs Gorden, on the 26th December. P.C. Cole proved the case. Defendant was fined 5s., and 9s. costs, in default fourteen days’ imprisonment.”

Another example of unseemly behaviour during the season of peace and goodwill was complained of by the Reverend John Atcherley in 1805. John, who had been appointed Curate of the parish of Wednesbury in Staffordshire, found parish affairs in the firm grip of the church wardens and their ally the beadle. These men, he believed, “had been in office so long, and had become so cruel and oppressive to those whom they should protect” that they should be removed. He cited as evidence their “cruelty to a Mr. Foster, a schoolmaster” and “their barbarity to another inoffensive man, viz. the governor of the workhouse”. In a pamphlet which John had privately printed in 1806, he stated:

I returned unexpectedly to the parish, and just time enough to behold the distressed situation of the governor and his wife. On the 24th of December I returned from Shrewsbury, and on the following day, during divine service, the church wardens entered the workhouse with constables, bailiffs, and a multitude of men equally pious with themselves, and actually turned the governor and his wife, (who were sojourners in this iron-hearted land) into the snow-covered street.

Sadly, John found that challenging the status quo in Wednesbury simply brought the attentions of the church wardens upon himself. The Vicar of the parish, the Rev Alexander Bunn Haden, gave his Curate no support – according to John, Haden “seemed determined not to visit his parish” and stated “it is as much as my life is worth to come among them.” The Rev John Atcherley eventually left Wednesbury to take up the curacy of Market Drayton.

A far more charitable approach to Christmas was experienced by John Atcherley’s great grandnephew Walter Heath Atcherley in 1916. After the outbreak of the First World War, Walter (then residing at Ilfracombe in Devon) had volunteered as a Special Constable, as a member of the Volunteer Training Corps, and as Assistant Commandant of the local Voluntary Aid Detachment (or V.A.D.) Committee. In was in the latter role that Walter helped to organise a Christmas Fair to raise funds for the local V.A.D. hospital. The fair took place at Runnacleave Hall, and its successful outcome was reported on in the North Devon Journal:

There was a crowded attendance, and the stalls included all kinds of provisions—rabbits, fruit, meat, fish, vegetables, and household goods of many kinds. There were variety entertainments, competitions, illusions, palmistry, sleight of hand, and other attractions, and Mr. W. C. Hutchings, F.A.I., gave his services as auctioneer in disposing of many of the things for sale. The sale realised about £75.

The townspeople of Rhyl on the north coast of Wales, which towards the end of the 1900s included several members of the Atcherley family, also exhibited the true spirit of Christmas. On 3 January 1874 the Wrexham Advertiser reported:

Christmas Trees.—Several large Christmas trees, laden with useful and ornamental articles, were exhibited in the school-room, Wellington-road, Rhyl, on Tuesday, in aid of the funds of the new church schools and the improvements at the Ragged Schools. Mrs (Colonel) Atcherley, Mrs (Canon) Morgan, and Mrs Tudor Owen presided, and gave, in company with other ladies, much valuable property for sale. There was a large attendance of visitors, and a good sum of money realised.

Mrs (Colonel) Atcherley was Jane Louisa (nee Dickin), the second wife of Lt-Col Francis Topping Atcherley and stepmother to the Colonel’s four young children. Those children included Francis Robinson Hartland Atcherley (mentioned earlier in this article) and Catherine Emma Grace Atcherley, who was known as Grace. Grace was almost certainly the Miss Atcherley who, according to the Rhyl Journal of 4 January 1890, contributed to a “Christmas Tree and Sale of Work” at the Boys’ Schoolroom in the town on 20 and 27 December 1889. This event was held “in support of the day Schools, and the improvement and enlargement of the Church Organ”.

Colonel Atcherley’s younger brother Captain William Atcherley Atcherley also passed some of his later years in Rhyl. He is credited with writing the words for Corbet S Catty’s “Sleigh Song and Chorus” in 1879 (the song began “Light flakes of snow” but regrettably the rest of the lyrics remain a mystery to me). He also wrote the following “New Year’s ode” which was performed at a ‘Parish Gathering’ held at Rhyl Town Hall on 5 January 1888:

THE NEW YEAR.

Hark : midnight chimes ! who’s yonder guest
The frozen pane that’s beating,
And his request in gentle tones
To enter in repeating ?
‘Tis the New Year with beaming face
His greeting hastes to bid us :
Welcome New Year, if thou dost pitch
Thy camp in peace amid us.
Welcome, if from our coasts thou scare
Depression’s leaden hue,
And commerce, agriculture, twin
Stars, reappear on view !
If a bright silver wedding on
Our Prince and Princess dawn,
And fields scarce tilled shall laugh and sing
With yellow waning corn.
If ne’er on thrones and dynasties
Ambition vaultings sit
On Danube, Drieper, Seine, Spree’s banks
With torch of war re-lit !
Such may thy omens be ! so may
Rose, shamrock, thistle meet,
Three peoples, yet one kingdom, and
One harmony complete.
W. A. A.
Marton,
Xmas, 1887.


Picture credits. Holly, adapted from image of a Victorian Christmas card taken from Wikimedia Commons and in the public domain. The parish church of Wednesbury, from A History of Wednesbury, in the County of Stafford by John Nock Bagnall (1854), image in the public domain. Christmas tree, from The Christmas Tree, a Story for Young and Old (1866), image in the public domain.

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