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I am often asked by clients where they should search if they cannot find a record in the British Library or The National Archives, or online at sites such as the FIBIS database, Family Search, Find My Past, Ancestry, or India Office Family History Search. The answer I have to give is, contact the church in India.

Emma Jolly, in the article St Stephen’s Church, Ootacamund

Emma Jolly writer, historian, genealogist
  1. Guest Review by Barry Jolly of The Lost Story of the William and Mary

    The Lost Story of the William and Mary: The Cowardice of Captain Stinson by Gill Hoffs (Pen & Sword History, 2016)

    Gill Hoffs book on a nineteenth century maritime disaster has received a number of favourable reviews. This is understandable as it uses contemporary sources to develop the drama as the ship, and its benighted passengers, moved inexorably closer to their doom.

    As an historian of modest claims myself, I welcome the use of resources that modern technology makes available. Books published in earlier times are increasingly being digitised, bringing new – or recovered – insights into otherwise lost events. Similarly, the ever expanding newspaper libraries now coming on stream enable the historian to follow events as they unfolded in the reporting of the day.

    Both sources, of course, are no more certain than books and newspapers of today, and a healthy scepticism, with the realisation that the reports of the day are often incomplete or partial, remain essential elements in the historian’s tool locker.

    At the same time, the expense involved in travelling to dusty archives can be daunting to the professional historian let alone the amateur. Gill Hoffs has made extensive use of the internet to contact descendants of those who survived, and thus access family records and reminiscences, as well as newspapers of the time and a fair range of modern texts mostly of a fairly general nature.

    The story commences with the passengers themselves, as they were leaving various parts of the United Kingdom, especially famine racked Ireland, and the Netherlands. Their travails in the unique culture of the port of Liverpool are followed by details of the only too obvious deficiencies of the ships – British and American – being used to convey, in dreadful conditions, people with hopes of a new life. Conditions for sea-going passengers in the nineteenth century were all too often uncomfortable in inevitably hazardous circumstances, but these ship-owners appear to have been at best thoughtless, at worst utterly heartless, in the paltry arrangements for their human cargoes.

    In a nutshell, the William and Mary was a toxic mix of Roman Catholic Irish and Dutch Protestant emigrants, a crew ill at ease with each other and an incompetent captain, all in a dangerously over-loaded ship. Some childbirths added to the unhealthy conditions, exacerbated by poor rations, lack of privacy and insanitary accommodation.

    As the unhappy ship approached American waters, the captain decided upon an unsafe route through dangerous channels, and the William and Mary paid the almost inevitable price. The real horror of this already alarming story lies in the subsequent events. The captain and the crew, almost to a man, not only abandoned their ship and its passengers to their fate, but also declared on arrival in the United States that the ship had gone down. Newspaper editors wondered how so many of the crew and so few of the passengers had survived, and in due course the dreadful truth emerged. The ship had foundered, but not before many of the passengers had been rescued.

    Gill Hoffs succeeds in developing the dramatic events in breathtaking style, quoting extensively from newspapers of the period. One negative point is that the majority of the reports do not relate directly to the William and Mary. Many indeed pre-date this ill-fated voyage.

    One or two other doubts persist, particularly in relation to context. The Great Famine in Ireland of 1845-8 is well documented, but not well explained here. This concern extends also to the circumstances of sea travel in the nineteenth century, and the specific losses in coffin ships, as they became known, carrying – and losing – vast numbers of destitute and starving Irish peasants to the New World in the mid to late 1840s. Ultimately the problem of overloading ships was remedied by the introduction of the Plimsoll Line in 1876; the absence of adequate regulation is mentioned briefly but could well have been developed further.

    In fairness, these comments detract little from the telling of the story. For the general reader, this is a gripping and fascinating read.

    Barry Jolly is Publications Editor for Milford-on-Sea Historical Record Society, but writes here in a personal capacity.

  2. Review of Amelia Dyer and the Baby Farm Murders by Angela Buckley

    ameliadyer

    Angela Buckley is well-known among family historians as the Chair of the Society of Genealogists and for her work on true crime. Her first book, The Real Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Story of Jerome Caminada (Pen & Sword, 2014) explored crime and criminals through the life of a 19th century Italian-Mancunian detective.

    This latest title is the first in Buckley’s historical true crime series, Victorian Supersleuth Investigates. Focusing on the crime (or in this case, crimes), Buckley carefully pieces together the facts using contemporary reports supported by her research into socio-historical sources.

    Buckley was inspired to explore the crimes of Amelia Dyer when she discovered she lived close to the Reading location where the baby farmer’s victims were found in the River Thames. The true number of Dyer’s victims will never be known, but the book names all those identified through Dyer’s trial, the police investigation, and the rather sensational newspaper reporting of the time. As such, this is a valuable resource for family and social historians. There are details, too, of those who found the victims, along with other witnesses and neighbours.

    One of the mysteries of this case for a modern reader is why did anyone hand over their infants to the murderous Dyer? Buckley provides the background to this, explaining the myriad difficulties in the late Victorian period for women who were unmarried or unable to care for their own children. In my view, the socio-historical detail is one of the book’s greatest strengths.

    Another strength is the lucid writing. Not only is the book easy to read, but the complexities of these crimes and the motivations of the rather puzzling Dyer are explained clearly. Although the subject matter is harrowing, criminal details are balanced against fascinating passages of social history. Despite being full of dates, names and times. the book is short and well-paced. As such it is suitable for anyone wanting to read a book on holiday or during a daily commute. It certainly transports the reader to another world.

  3. Dangerous Characters In London’s Little Italy Fascists, Anti-Fascists, Suffragettes and Spies

    IMG_1683Last week I went to see the latest exhibition at Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre in Holborn and was amazed to learn about a little-known tragedy of the Second World War. The exhibition, “Dangerous Characters in Little Italy” is curated by Alfio Bernabei. Among its exhibits is a section on the sinking of the Arandora Star on 2 July 1940. 805 souls were lost, of which 470 were Italian. It struck me that this is an event that we should commemorate in the way of the Lusitania or other wartime maritime losses. Astonishingly, the exhibition reveals that at the time the event was hidden and little attention was paid to it in the decades that followed.

    Built in 1927, the Arandora Star was originally a leisure cruiser belonging to the Blue Star Line. Recommissioned for war service in 1939, the ship served as a carrier for troops and civilian evacuees. In June 1940, she sailed from Liverpool, transport 734 Italians and 479 Germans who had been interned in Britain to Newfoundland in Canada. Also on board were 86 German prisoners of war and 174 officers and crew. Accompanying them were their guards: 200 Allied naval and military personnel. There was no supporting vessel, indicating that the ship was carrying civilians, and no Red Cross had been painted on the ship.

    Around 100 miles west of Bloody Foreland, Donegal, the Arandora Star was torpedoed by a German U-boat. As the internees clambered into lifeboats, some were shot by their guards to prevent them from escaping. A Canadian destroyer rushed to the scene, managing to rescue 868 lives. In all, 713 internees and 92 guards and crew lost their lives. They included the Captain, E. W. Moulton, 12 officers, 42 crew, 37 military guards, 470 Italians and 243 Germans.

    IMG_1682

    This incident and the silence that followed it, reflected the fear of Italian fascism in Britain during the war. “Dangerous Characters in Little Italy”, first exhibited by Centro Studi P. Calamandrei,Palazzo della Signoria, Jesi, Italy, highlights how fascism grew in Britain’s underground, and how many Italians sought to challenge it. The audio-visual display is based on Bernabei’s research about Italians in Clerkenwell and Soho in the period 1920-1940 and features the rise of Fascism and within the Italian community in London, as well as the activity of the Italian and non-Italian anti-Fascists to oppose it. The exhibition covers the period between the rise of Fascism in Italy in the early 1920s and Italy’s declaration of war on the side of Nazi Germany.

    “Dangerous Characters in Little Italy: Fascists, Anti-Fascists, Suffragettes
    and Spies” is a free exhibition at Camden Local Studies and Archive Centre, 32-38 Theobalds Road, London WC1X 8PA and runs until Friday 3rd July 2015 (Opening Hours: Mon 10-6 Tues 10-6 Thurs 10-7 Fri 10-5 Alternate Saturdays 11-5).

  4. My Great Great Grandfather and the Great Confectionery Swindle of 1911

    Criminal ancestors may have been a source of shame to our families in the past, but for today’s family historians their antics have created many useful and well-archived documents. Court records and newspaper crime reports are particularly rich seams of material for researchers. Searching online, I was delighted to discover my great great grandfather’s appearance in an Old Bailey court proceeding from 1911.

    Thankfully, my ancestor Henry Joseph Barnes (known to his family as “Nen”) wasn’t in the dock. Instead, he had a small part in the misappropriation of a large collection of sweets by 37 year old clerk, John Stone. At the time, Nen was working as a carman for Thomas Handyside Ltd of Holloway Road, manufacturing confectioners.

    From the census, taken two months before this trial took place, I know that in 1911 Nen was living in Boleyn Road, Islington and that his sister lived just north of there in Allen Road, Stoke Newington, where some of the following events took place.

    Old Bailey Proceedings, 27th June 1911. Reference Number: t19110627-43 The full account can be found online at the website, “Proceedings of the Old Bailey: London’s Central Criminal Court 1674-1913”

    STONE, John (37, clerk) , obtaining by false pretences from Thomas Andrews two hundredweight in weight of mixed caramels and other articles, the goods of Nathan Baras Walters, from William Mason, a quantity of confectionery, the goods of Simon Flatto, and from Henry Joseph Barnes five hundredweight in weight of confectionery, the goods of Thomas Handyside Limited, in each case with intent to defraud: attempting to obtain by false pretences from Frederick Charles Wimble a quantity of chocolate, the goods of F. L. Cailler; from Walter George Scott a quantity of chocolate, the goods of Jean Bear, and from Frederick Nettleton one ton of cocoa shell powder, the goods of Frederick Nettleton and others; (forging and uttering and publishing as true a certain writing purporting to be a business reference from Jacob Mehlburg, with intent to defraud).

    Mr. Walter Frampton and Mr. Roome prosecuted; Mr. E. H. Coumbe defended.

    Mr. Coumbe objected to the indictment as charging a number of separate misdemeanours followed by two counts charging forgery and uttering; the prosecution should be put to election as to which count they go upon.

    Judge Rentoul said that he had some doubt as to including the last two counts; evidence of similar acts of obtaining by false pretences could always be given even where not a part of the indictment; the first eight counts were unobjectionable.

    The last two counts were struck out.

    FREDERICK CHARLES WIMBLE , assistant manager to F. L. Cailler, 4, Upper Thames Street. On March 6, 1911, I received letter (produced) from “J. Stone, tobacconist and confectioner, 69, Allen Road, Stoke Newington”: “Dear Sir,—I have for some time dealt with Nestlé and Co.,” ordering a quantity of sweets and giving reference to Bond and Co., 110, Matthias Road, and Bloom Stores, Brick Lane. I wrote the letter (produced) of March 11, stating that on receipt of cheque the goods would be forwarded. On March 13 prisoner telephoned, saying that he was surprised at receiving a pro forma invoice, and asking if the references were satisfactory. I told him the references were satisfactory, but they were not in our trade, and as it was his first transaction we should prefer to have a cheque. He replied: “There is no difficulty about that. I will send you a cheque, but I must have the goods on Wednesday morning without fail.” That was on Monday at 11 a.m. After 4 p.m. I received letter (produced), post-marked “2.15 p.m.,” containing cheque for £10 1s. 6d. The following morning I had the cheque specially presented; it came back dishonoured. I wrote expressing surprise and stating that on receipt of the cash the goods would be forwarded. I heard nothing further from the prisoner.

    Cross-examined. My firm is a member of the Confectioners’ Alliance, whose solicitors appeared at the police-court. We did not prosecute, but I appeared as a witness.

    WALTER GEORGE SCOTT , chief clerk, chocolate department, Nestlé’s Anglo-Swiss Milk Company, owned by Jean Bear. On March 6, 1911, I received letter produced from prisoner ordering goods and referring to Bond and Co. and the Bloom Stores; I forwarded pro forma invoices of £7 1s. 9d.; prisoner sent cheque, which was returned marked “R/D.” I wrote expressing surprise and heard nothing further. I did not part with the goods.

    NATHAN BARAS WALTERS , 122, High Street, Poplar, manufacturing confectioner. On March 15 I received letter produced from prisoner ordering sweets to the value of £5 11s., which I sent with invoice, when the carman brought me cheque produced, which has been returned marked “R/D.” I informed prisoner, who wrote that it was owing to a cheque of £8 9s. 10d. paid into his account being dishonoured and stating he would write when we could present it again. I have not been paid.

    THOMAS ANDREWS , carman to N. B. Walters and Co. corroborated.

    HENRY HANDYSIDE , managing director of Thomas Handyside, Limited, 166 and 167, Holloway Road, manufacturing confectioners. On April 3 I received letter produced from prisoner ordering goods. I wrote with invoice stating the goods would be delivered for cash, on April 6 sent them by my carman and received cheque for £4 14s. 6d. produced, which has been returned marked “R/D.” I informed prisoner, applying for the money and received no answer.

    HENRY JOSH. BARNES , carman to Handyside, corroborated.

    SIMON FLATTO , trading as the Anglo-Russian Confectionery Company, received similar order, sent goods and received cheque for £5 2s. 4d., which was returned marked “R/D.”

    WILLIAM MASON , carman, corroborated.

    FREDERICK NETTLETON , of Nettleton and Morris, 8, Colonial Avenue, E.C., confectionery merchant. On April 19 my firm issued a circular recommending cocoa shell powder to confectionery manufacturers; it is an article only of use to manufacturers. On April 24 I received letter from prisoner asking for quotation, which we sent, and on May 2 received letter produced ordering one ton and giving references to Bond and Co. and to J. Mehlburg, of 193, Whitechapel Road (to whom we had sent a circular). I wrote to both references and received letter produced purporting to come from J. Mehlburg stating that prisoner was good for £20 credit.

    Mr. Coumbe objected to the evidence as embarrassing to the prisoner and as tending to bring in the charge of forgery.

    Judge Rentoul held that this evidence was admissible as evidence of false pretences.

    (Examination continued.) I believe the letter from Mehlburg to be genuine, but after making other inquiries wrote prisoner offering to send the goods on receipt of cash. On March 17 I received letter with cheque for £10 (produced), which was paid into my bank and returned marked “R/D.” I paid the cheque in again with the same result. I wrote prisoner asking for an explanation, but received no reply.

    Cross-examined. I do not know J. Mehlburg and have had no dealings with him; my circular was sent to him as his name appeared in a list of confectioners.

    JACOB MEHLBURG , 193, Whitechapel Road, confectioner. I have known prisoner seven or eight years; he was a clerk to a solicitor and used to collect money and write letters for me. About seven or eight months ago he opened at Allen Road and had £3 worth of goods from me for which he paid. On Saturday, March 11, he asked me to change a cheque for £10 for him. I said if he would call on Monday morning if I had the change I would do so. On the Monday he called, but I had not the money. He said could I get the bank to change it. I said no, he had better open a small banking account. I then introduced prisoner to the London Provincial Bank, Whitechapel Road, where he opened an account and received a cheque book. Prisoner used to call on me once or twice a fortnight. I do not know Nettleton and Morris, have never written to them or authorised anyone to do so. I did not write letter produced or ask anyone to write it for me. It is written on my notepaper.

    Cross-examined. I have been 11 months at 193, Whitechapel Road, and formerly carried on a confectioner’s business at 14, Vallance Road. My wife and family assist in the business when I am out. I am an Austrian and have been 12 years in England. I occasionally deal in job lines in confectionery; I have bought three lots from prisoner for which I produce receipts: April 8, £9; March 31, £6 12s.; March 21, £8 0s. 3d. I did not buy goods to value of £4 9s. 8d. from prisoner in May. I have had no dispute with the Confectioners’ Alliance. I had no occasion to buy through the prisoner from Nestlé or Cailler—I have bought direct from those firms. Cocoa shell powder is of no use to me, as I do not manufacture. I do not know what it is good for. I never told prisoner I would buy some from him. I take about £140 a week in my business. I deal wholesale, buying from manufacturers and supplying small shops. I do not owe prisoner any money for goods supplied. I do not know who wrote the letter to Nettleton produced. Prisoner may have written letters for me years ago. I always sign my letters myself.

    Re-examined. Prisoner has visited me at Vallance Road. Letter produced is written on Vallance Road notepaper and is signed, “J.

    Mehlburg.” I always sign “Jacob Mehlburg.” It is not my brother’s or my traveller’s writing.

    DAVID WETTMAN , Wettman and Co., 19, Osborn Street, E., wholesale confectioners. In May last I received an order from a Mr. J. Stone for 4 cwt. of sweets, coming to £4 19s. 6d. I have mislaid the order. They were to be delivered to his place, Allen Road, Stoke Newington. My carman took them and brought back a cheque for the amount of the bill. This is it, signed J. Stone, and dated May 12. I paid it into my account, and it was returned. I went to see the prisoner, and his wife told me to pay the cheque in again, the money was there. I paid it in again, and it was returned. Prisoner kept a little shop; I did not see any of my stock there. I have received nothing for the goods. Mr. Coumbe said he did not challenge any of the deliveries.

    JULIUS EARET , J. Karet and Co., 38, Bridge Street, Mile End, wholesale confectioners and manufacturers. We received this latter, dated March 21, from J. Stone, Allen Road, Stoke Newington: “I have been dealing with the British Confectionery Company, and on recommendation wish to give you a trial. Please forward 2 cwt. of French nougat, 1 cwt. of chocolate nougat, 1 cwt. of nougat cubes, 1 cwt. of Jap desserts. Please advise when you are delivering.” I told my clerk to book the order, and mark it “C.O.D.” I delivered the goods on March 23. They came to £4 6s. The carman brought the goods back as there was no cash to meet them. On March 24 I received this letter from Stone: “Dear Sirs,—I regret I was not in when goods arrived. Kindly deliver to-morrow, Saturday, and oblige.” I sent them, and the carman brought back a cheque on the London and Provincial Bank, Whitechapel, for £4 6s., signed “J. Stone.” I paid it into my account, and it was dishonoured. I went to the prisoner’s place and saw a woman I believe to be Mrs. Stone; she insulted me. I have never had my money nor the goods back. It was a very little shop there.

    RICHARD WILLIAM HUMPHREY , clerk to London and Provincial Bank, Whitechapel Road. We have a customer named Jacob Mehlberg. On March 13 last he brought Stone to the bank. Prisoner opened an account with a cheque for £10 13s. 9d., and signed the signature book. These cheques (Exhibits 1, 5 to 13) are all signed by Stone. The cheque prisoner opened the account with was returned dishonoured; it has not been paid. The cheque was never paid in again. Our cheque-book was not returned; we applied for it.

    WALTER FREDERICK SISMAN , clerk to London and Provincial Bank, Limited, 167, Whitechapel Road. I produce a certificated copy of the account of J. Stone, Allen Road, Stoke Newington. It was opened on March 13 by a payment in of a cheque for £10 13s. 9d., and a cheque-book containing 24 cheques was handed out on that day to Stone. The account is debited with 2s. for it. The cheque for £10 13s. 9d. was returned dishonoured on March 17. On that date a cash payment was made of £2. A cheque was drawn against that on the 20th for £1 10s. The next payment into that account was on March 20 by a cheque for £8 19s. 10d. It was returned dishonoured on the 24th. It was paid in again on the 24th, and returned again dishonoured on the 28th. That was the last payment in. The only effective payment in was £2. At the last there was 6d. to the credit. On March 14 there was a cheque in favour of Cailler’s British Agency, resented for payment for £16 1s. 8d., which was dishonoured. On the 15th one in favour of Nestlé’s for £7 1s. 9d. There were sixteen other cheques presented for payment in favour of different people, all of which were dishonoured because of no funds to meet them. There was an effective payment into the bank to the credit of the account of £2, against “which cheques for £96 13s. 7d. were drawn. On April 3 a letter was written to Stone, asking him to close his account and return the unused cheques. They were not returned, so far as I know. The cheque-book contained 24 cheques; 19 were drawn.

    Cross-examined. We should not hear whether any of these cheques had been taken up by him.

    Detective-sergeant ERNEST BROCK , M Division. I arrested prisoner on a warrant at 69, Allen Road, Stoke Newington, on May 23. I read it to him. He made no reply. He was charged and made no reply. I searched the premises. There was no telephone there. The telephone number on the billheads, “1212 Dalston,” is at a public-house next door.

    (Defence.)

    JOHN STONE (prisoner, on oath). I am 37 years old, and have been a solicitor’s clerk practically all my life. Of late I have been managing clerk to Mr. G. Edgar Mew, practising in the East End. I first went to him in 1907, and left in September, 1910; his practice was not particularly successful, and he gave up. I then went to Mr. Richards, 1, Great James Street, Bedford Row, and was there for about six months. While with Mr. Mew I became acquainted with a Mr. Winfield. He wanted to sell a shop, and I bought it for £10. My wife looked after it. I was occupied in legal business right up to the time of my arrest. The confectionery business took from £7 to £10 a week gross at first, and then it fell off to about 30s. a week. At first I always paid spot cash for goods supplied for the business up to March this year. About the beginning of last March I was not in regular employment. I had known Mehlberg for years through doing legal business for him. He knew I had taken this shop. I told him I wanted to get further stock cheap, as the takings had gone down, and he said he could give me the names and addresses of firms where I could get cheap goods and credit, and give his name as a reference. I went with him to the bank and opened an account. Early in March I had a good deal of money owing to me from Mr. Nunn and Wilson’s Electric Empires, Limited. Mr. Nunn is managing director of Wilson’s Electric Empires. I have done a lot of work for him and for the company as secretary and confidential clerk. My belief in March was that I was going to be paid, and I should then have money. Cailler’s and Nestlé’s names were given to me by Mehlberg. He said to me, “If you pay cash terms you get a good percentage, 10 or 12 1/2 per cent., and I can afford to give you a very small profit, and then can resell again and get my profit over you. If you give these first orders you can get a month’s credit, and then you will get a certain amount of discount.” This was in the middle of March. In consequence I wrote the letters to Cailler’s and Nestlé’s. The cheques to them were sent on the day I opened the account. I fully anticipated the cheque for £10 13s. 9d. being met. As to the £23, if I had received these goods I would then have arranged with Mehlberg to buy them at a profit, and I should have immediately paid that money into the bank. Even if my cheques had gone back I could have gone to the payees’ banks on the following morning and have picked them up. I say that Mehlberg’s denial of any such contract is a deliberate untruth. What I wrote to Cailler’s is perfectly true, that I had for some time dealt with Nestlé’s. I had not dealt direct with the firm, but with their goods. As regards Walters, Handysides and Flatto, when I knew the £10 13s. 9d. cheque had been dishonoured I saw Mr. Nunn, and he said, “You must hold that cheque over.” I fully believed the cheque for £8 19s. 10d. would have been met. At that time I was expecting daily to receive £45, and acting on that belief I ordered these goods. As regards the other goods during March and April, Mehlberg had arranged to pay me, bat he did not do so promptly. I received some money from him, and paid current accounts. The cheques drawn to the Stoke Newington Borough Council and Metropolitan Water Board I tore up and paid cash instead, out of the moneys I received. If I had received sufficient cash from my debtors I should have picked up all these cheques and should have had a balance in hand as well. That was absolutely my intention from the beginning. The three firms dealt with in May were all well known to Mehlberg. He said to me, “You will get the goods from those people, I will buy them from you and you can pay them in to meet your cheques,” which I was going to do. I let him have the goods I received from the Maple Confectionery Company. He owes me the money for them to this day.

    (Saturday, July 1.)

    JOHN STONE (prisoner) recalled. On May 15 by a friendly arrangement a receiver on behalf of a debenture holder was appointed of Wilson Electric Empires, Limited. My claim was sent in then for £47 19s. 10d., of which £38 was a preferential claim for arrears of salary and admitted. Mr. Wilson is at Bath at present. The reference sent to Messrs. Nettleton and Morris came from Mr. Mehlberg. He requested me to write to them and order a ton of cocoa shell at the price quoted in a circular he gave me and he would give me a sovereign profit, the arrangement being that if I got that they would then give me credit and I could get five tons and he would be able to sell it. The letter from Mehlberg’s looks like his brother’s writing. I do not think he can write Englsh. I have written many letters for him and signed his name to them. Other people have done so as well. I wish to make an offer to assign to a trustee, on behalf of the prosecutors’ debts owing to me amounting roughly to about £72. I say the total of the goods I have had delivered to me is about £33 or £34. The thought never entered my mind of defrauding any one of these persons of their goods or their money.

    Cross-examined. I have been a solicitor’s clerk for 23 years and according to my circular the proprietor of a legal agency, but there was very little in it. I know from my legal experience that Criminal Courts will not listen to such a suggestion as I made as to paying these people, but it was a suggestion of mine. The evidence they have given (excepting Mehlberg) I agree is true as to my ordering the goods, but I do not say it is true they wanted cash for them. I left my cheque book at home signed, and if they asked for payment when delivering the goods they were to be asked if they would accept a cheque. I anticipated the delivery of the goods on the usual terms, one month. I say I had a perfect right to draw on the bank. Whether I had or not, unless there was money there to meet the cheques, is a matter of opinion. Many people draw cheques in anticipation of getting money in time to meet them: that is finance. This is a question of finance: I anticipated money. I did not wish the people to believe that money was at the bank at the time nor that I did not have a farthing there; I always had something. I never had more than £2 in the account. With the exception of that £2, against which 30s. was drawn a few days afterwards, and 2s. charged for a cheque book and two dishonoured cheques I received from Wilson and Nunn, I have unfortunately not paid a farthing into my account. When you asked whether when I applied to Messrs. Cailler and Nestlé for goods I mentioned that I was dealing with a rival house you are putting it very broadly. I said to Cailler’s that I was dealing with Nestlé’s and to Nestlés that I was dealing with Cailler’s. Mr. Nunn used to call himself Wilson. I have known him for seven or eight years. He is an undischarged bankrupt. He obtained credit far over £20 without disclosing the fact, was prosecuted and acquitted. He brought an action for malicious prosecution, which he lost. He has not paid any of the costs. I was a witness and managing clerk to his solicitor. I knew his position early this year. I acted for him in a matter of rates. That is the gentleman whose cheque I was accepting to open an account at my bank on March 17. I certainly thought it was going to be met. It was not a shock to me when I found it dishonoured; I have had a good many dishonoured. Although it was that day I drew cheques for £16 to Cailler’s and £7 to Nestlé’s I had every wish to meet them.

    Re-examined. Mr. Nunn has an action against the Bioscope Company still proceeding for breaches of agreement in which he claims £1,200. I know they made him an offer of £100 and costs, which he refused and then he brought the action for malicious prosecution.

    Mr. Frampton. That action has been discontinued.

    Mr. Coumbe. We do not know that. (Evidence continued.) Wilson has paid hundreds of pounds to big firms in the picture business, but his expenses were very heavy.

    Verdict, Guilty.

    Sentence, 12 months’ hard labour.

    BEFORE MR. JUSTICE DARLING.

    (Saturday, July 1.)

  5. Thames Discovery Programme: The Man who saved London from Drowning

    Thanks to the Thames Discovery Programme, the community archaeology project run by MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology), for sending news of an interesting new plaque in Victoria Tower Gardens.

    S Copyright Institution of Civil Engineers

    On 29 October 2014, Sir Thomas Peirson Frank (1881-1951), an engineer who saved London from drowning no fewer than 121 times, was commemorated in a ceremony held at Victoria Tower Gardens, next to the Houses of Parliament, along the riverwall. The plaque is supported by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), and was unveiled by the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Audrey Lewis.

    The location is significant as on the other side of the wall are the scars of the Blitz and evidence of the laudable efforts of Peirson Frank’s team during the Second World War.

    Sir (Thomas) Peirson Frank, co-ordinated repairs to roads and public services for London County Council between 1939 and 1945. He established a secret rapid-response unit to deal with the destruction of London’s flood defences from the Luftwaffe’s intensive bombing raids. Recent fieldwork and research of unpublished reports, by archaeologists from the Thames Discovery Programme (TDP), have revealed the extent of the unit’s heroic efforts.

    unnamedPeirson Frank, a respected civil engineer who later became President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), knew well the catastrophic consequences that a flood defence breach could have, potentially submerging low-lying areas of the capital, including the London Underground, where so many Londoners sought refuge during the Blitz.

    ICE President Geoff French said: “While historic engineering greats like Brunel are frequently revered and well established in the engineering ‘hall of fame’, others like Sir Thomas Peirson Frank have remained unsung heroes. It was down to the ingenuity of this engineer that parts of our capital, including the main infrastructure network that supported it, survived the Blitz without being submerged. Needless to say the consequences could have been devastating. It is a truly fascinating story, and I am delighted that Sir Thomas’ feat has finally been discovered and acknowledged.”

    As the prospect of war loomed, Peirson Frank set about making preparations: identifying the most vulnerable sites, introducing secondary flood defences, and setting up depots staffed by rapid-response teams, called the Thames Flood Prevention Emergency Repairs unit. Their endeavours were conducted in secret, so as not to alarm the public or alert the Luftwaffe to this soft target.

    Research, supported by University College London, has explored unpublished records in the London Metropolitan Archives and revealed Peirson Frank’s detailed plans. Recent TDP fieldwork, to record the Thames riverwall, has exposed the devastation and extensive repair work covertly undertaken to protect the capital.

    Gustav Milne, Thames Discovery Programme Director, said: “Last winter illustrated the danger posed by floods. It emphasises the Herculean efforts of Sir Thomas Peirson Frank’s highly successful rapid-response team, at the height of the bombing. It’s a real credit to the Thames Discovery Programme’s community team that they were able to unravel this forgotten story, since all news of their efforts was deliberately supressed at the time.”

    Martin Frank, Grandson of Sir Thomas Peirson Frank, said: “The demands at the time for secrecy meant that this work was never widely recognised and so it is fitting, even after all these years, that we will have this plaque to remind future generations how close we came to catastrophe and how much we owe to Sir Peirson and his team.”

    You can find out more about the Thames Discovery Programme on the website www.thamesdiscovery.org, on Twitter @ThamesDiscovery, on Facebook Thames Discovery Programme.

    Image © by kind permission of London Metropolitan Archives, London

     

  6. Gender & the Great War – The myth of the ‘superfluous woman’

    Thank you to writer and researcher, Suzie Grogan, for contributing this guest post on the myth of the ‘superflous woman’ which followed the Great War of 1914-18. Suzie’s latest book, Shell Shocked Britain: The First World War’s legacy for Britain’s mental health, which is published by Pen & Sword History in October 2014, considers the concept in more detail.

    Wedding injuredmancard

    Historians have written widely on the roles of women during and after the First World War. From their vital war work to their role as mother of the Empire there has been much discussion around the true nature of the change to the society that emerged after the Armistice was signed in 1918. Pre-war views of women as wife and home maker had to change, but by how much, and how widely, offers room for debate. Previous assumptions about the liberating effects of the war, the wages available to women for the first time and the jobs they could secure have been challenged and misogyny in the establishment and the press of the time exposed. My research for Shell Shocked Britain: The First World War’s legacy for Britain’s mental health helped me understand that despite the changes wrought by war, there was much work still to be done.

    However, one myth that simply won’t be laid to rest is that of the ‘superfluous woman’ – an army of spinsters left on the shelf following the deaths of more than 700,000 of the nation’s finest in the four years of fighting. I am still asked to comment on the subject at talks, and certainly some people who lived through that period perceived this to be a real issue. The press referred to ‘millions’ for whom marriage had become an impossibility. Surely there were not enough men to go round?

    Virginia Nicholson in her marvellous book Singled Out focusses on the two million unmarried British women across all ages and classes as indicated by the 1921 Census. Her figures were rounded up from a number closer to 1.75 million and although the largest gap is in the 25-35 year old age group, where 1.1 million are unmarried as opposed to 919,000 men, it is clear that the figure of 2 million single, desperate women is way off the mark. Women have always outnumbered men in census records. In the 1870s there were 1,054 women to 1,000 men; in 1911 the figure had risen to 1,068 to every 1,000. So for it to have reached 1,095 to 1,000 by 1921, it is clear the war simply amplified a continuing trend. Further analysis indicates that it was women born between 1894 and 1902 of the middle and upper classes who had their chances of marriage to the ‘right sort’ reduced. This is the generation of young, public school educated men who took junior officer posts and were in relative terms much more likely to be killed or seriously wounded than the men who served under them.

    I was lucky enough to attend a lecture by Professor Jay Winter, author of Sites of Memory Sites of Mourning, a key text in the debate about the emotional impact of the war. He maintains that the war made marriage more popular than ever. In 1919 and 1920 the marriage rate was 30% higher than the pre-war figure and re-marriage was up by 50%. But those marrying were more likely to be working class, often driven by economic necessity. For the middle and upper class girl or woman post war, things were more complex. Agony columns in the press saw letters from melancholy women who could not attract one of the ‘few men’ available. ‘Competition is keen and my chances do not seem very bright’. Dr Murray Leslie, the Daily Mail reported, berated the ‘jazzing flappers’ who tempted away young men with their provocative ways and revealing outfits. Like others, often supporters of the Eugenics movement, he was concerned that only women of the ‘lower orders’ were left to repopulate the Empire.

    However, the post-war period and a seemingly restricted marriage market supported the ambitions of many women who sought fulfilment outside home and family. Unlike Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, they did not want to be ‘always giving parties to cover the silence’ or be one of the women criticised in the press for living on tea and aspirin and complaining about their nerves. For some, their war work did open doors into the professions, but these were still largely closed off to women and some careers, such as teaching and nursing, were only available to unmarried women in any event.

    In Shell Shocked Britain I examine this issue in relation to the emotional impact of the war, and of post-war attitudes that made dealing with mental health issues challenging for all classes and both genders. Like the shell shocked soldier, women had to face life in a changed society. They were not, in numerical terms anyway, ‘superfluous’ but like some war veterans, many did wonder whether they had a useful place in the Britain of the 1920s and 1930s.

    Suzie Suzie Grogan is a London-born professional writer and researcher in the fields of social and family history and mental health. Suzie’s first book Dandelions and Bad Hair Days: Untangling Lives Affected by Depression and Anxiety was published in 2012 and she also writes for a wide variety of national magazines. Suzie also runs a popular blog, ‘No wriggling out of writing’, and presents a local radio show on literature, called ‘Talking Books’.

  7. The Best Websites for British India Research

    I have been on the British Library‘s list of approved researchers for the Asian and African Studies Reading Room, for some years. In 2012, my introductory guide to the British in India for family historians, Tracing Your British Indian Ancestors, was published by Pen and Sword. Since then there have been some major developments in this area of research. One of the most notable is the digitization of large sections of the India Office Records collection by Find My Past.

    Fort William, Calcutta 1735

    Fort William, Calcutta 1735

    Descendants of Europeans and Anglo-Indians who lived in the sub-continent under British rule are now spread widely across the globe. Happily, there are several free and good value online resources that researchers can use to investigate British, European and Anglo-Indian family history in India, Burma, Pakistan or Bangladesh before, and just after, Indian Independence in 1947.

    As some ancestors who lived in the subcontinent also travelled more widely in the British Empire and beyond, a number of related resources from outside the boundaries of India may also be useful.

    Here follows a list of my favourite websites for researching the British in India online. Some of them will lead you to further research in archives, especially at the British Library or The National Archives. If you cannot access archives in the London area, please contact me to obtain copies of documents.

    India Office Family History Search http://indiafamily.bl.uk/UI/

    Discovery (from The National Archives; includes material from The British Library that was formerly indexed on Access to Archives www.a2a.org.uk) http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/

    Families in British India Society (FIBIS; essential database and Wiki resources) http://www.fibis.org/

    Family Search https://familysearch.org/

    British Association for Cemeteries in South India (BACSA) http://indian-cemeteries.org/bacsa/html/cemetery_records.html

    Index to HEIC [Honourable East India Company] Cadets
    http://www.ans.com.au/~rampais/genelogy/india/indexes/cadfram.htm

    Index to Original Papers, Letters, Photographs, and Manuscripts at the British Library
    http://searcharchives.bl.uk/primo_library/libweb/action/search.do?dscnt=1&dstmp=1410528032513&vid=IAMS_VU2&fromLogin=true&fromLogin=true

    Historical maps of India  http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~poyntz/India/maps.html

    Untold Lives http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/untoldlives/

    Kabristan Archives (Ireland, Ceylon & India Genealogy) http://kabristan.org.uk/

    For ancestors in Burma, see http://www.angloburmeselibrary.com/index.html

    European genealogies for those who lived in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) can be found at the Dutch Burgher Reunion website: http://www.dutchburgherunion.org/genealogy.html

    A useful blog on India and Anglo-Indian family history is at http://geneblanchette.wordpress.com/

    The Colonial Film Catalogue holds many films of Empire families and of events that took place in British India http://www.colonialfilm.org.uk/

    Other colonial records, include Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), can be found in the Records of Former Colonial Administrations from The National Archives (TNA).

    Gibraltar Archives http://www.gibraltar.gov.gi/gibraltar-archives

    Malta Family History http://website.lineone.net/~stephaniebidmead/other%20sites.htm

    Ionian Islands Index http://website.lineone.net/~remosliema/Ionian1.htm

    East Africa records from TNA ref. RG36 www.thegenealogist.co.uk

    Mauritius – Association Maurice Archives http://www.amamu.org/

    East India Company at Home 1757-1857 http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/eicah/

    NewspapersSG has a digital archives of historic newspapers from Singapore and Malaya published between 1831-2009. This resource can be searched at http://newspapers.nl.sg/

    Sarah Speedy, Mrs Livingstone, I Presume? Memoirs of Mrs S.M. Speedy, wife of Major James Speedy 1815-1859 (Allan Speedy, 1996) – see www,speedy.co.nz/recollections/

    Emma Jolly, ‘Open Access Microfilms in the Asia, Pacific & Africa Collections of the British
    Library in the September 2008 edition of The Genealogists’ Magazine – www.sog.org.uk

    I regularly post news on this area of research to the Tracing Your British Indian Ancestors Facebook page. Please ‘like’ the page to receive regular updates.

    And do read the blogpost on my client Evelyn Nelson’s experiences in India, searching for the church registers of St Stephen’s, Ootacamund (Ooty).

  8. The National Football Museum

    Next month heralds the long-awaited launch of the English National Football Museum in Manchester. Opening on 6th July 2012, the Museum describes itself as a “world-class cultural attraction” in the perfect location, with football already bringing thousands of visitors to the city each year and being “very much part of Manchester’s DNA”.

    There will be plenty for current football fans to admire, from the shirt that referee Howard Webb wore in the 2010 World Cup final, to recent photographs in Stuart Roy Clarke’s Homes of Football exhibition. But it is the varied historical collections and extensive archive that give this Museum its significance. Amongst these are the collections of the UEFA Library, the Football Association, the Football League, the Littlewood Pools and the FIFA Collection. The last is apparently the finest single collection of football memorabilia, assembled by the late journalist and football fan, Harry Langton (1929-2000). There are also trophies, medals, caps and other memorabilia from two of the founders of the Football League, Bolton Wanderers and Preston North End.

    Perhaps the most interesting items for social and family historians are those of the People’s Collection. Comprised of over 6000 objects and ephemera donated by members of the public, the collection features magazines, trophies, player contracts, programmes, song sheets, cigarette cards, scarves, autograph books and tickets. The Museum welcomes enquiries from family historians and has a dedicated web page for genealogy research: http://www.nationalfootballmuseum.com/collections/family-history/ I was particularly excited to note that the Museum is digitising some of the FA and Football League records in their collections and look forward to hearing more on this over the next year.

    I have a personal interest in football history as my great grandfather’s cousin, Joe Smith (1889-1971), was one of the best professional footballers of his generation. He is second only to the legendary Nat Lofthouse as Bolton’s top goalscorer, and his 38 goals in season 1920/21 remain a club record. I first heard about him as a child when my grandmother claimed that she drank out of the FA Cup after one Joe’s FA Cup wins in the 1920s (Bolton won in both 1923 and 1926). Grandma always swore that this was true, but I’d love to have proof. Perhaps it’s hiding somewhere in the Museum’s archive . . .

    emmie-gertrude-billingham-1920s.thumbnail

    Grandma in the 1920s

    Joe Smith signed for Bolton in 1908 when he was just 18, having begun his career as an amateur at his local team of Newcastle St Lukes. He was capped for England five times. After retiring as a player, he managed Blackpool FC, guiding them to a tight 4-3 win over his old club, Bolton, in the celebrated FA Cup final of 1953. This final is also known as the Matthews Final, in tribute to the outstanding performance of Stanley Matthews.

    150px-joe_smith_football_manager

    Joe Smith

    Today, in this age of astronomical wages and accusations of clubs buying titles, my favourite Joe Smith anecdote centres on his early years. Joe’s father, Joseph (1856-1914) and his sister (my great great grandmother), Sarah, grew up in the industrial Black Country. Joseph went on to work in the hot and dangerous iron industry as a puddler, whilst his wife, Rosina, raised their three sons in a four-roomed house in Newcastle under Lyme. When my sons pester me to buy them aero dynamic balls or the latest kit, I remind them that their ancestor became a footballing legend by practising in the local streets, kicking rag balls made by his mother:

    I used to volley balls into the net from a few feet off the floor. I was deadly with them. And do you know how I developed that? When I was a junior, my mother used to make rag balls for my brother [Phillip Smith, also a professional footballer] and I. We couldn’t afford a real ball.
    We used to play against a wall, and kick from the street, about twenty yards out. Quite a few people used to watch us every time we went there. My mother could make a decent ‘ball’ with stockings, and fill it up with rags. We’d chuck it out of the hand, and you’d have to volley it before it dropped to the floor. We didn’t dribble with it. It was just for chucking out, just for shooting. That’s how I developed my goal-scoring.

    (as told the Blackpool FC’s chronicler, Robin Daniels).

    With thanks to my (and Joe Smith’s) cousins, Adrian Sherlock and Lynn Smith.

    The official website of the National Football Museum is http://www.nationalfootballmuseum.com and you can take part in the countdown to the opening at http://www.nationalfootballmuseum.com/join-in/the-countdown/

    Other useful websites for researching football ancestors are:

    Scottish Football Museum http://www.scottishfootballmuseum.org.uk/

    Homes of Football: http://www.homesoffootball.co.uk/

    Scottish National Team Archive http://www.scottishfa.co.uk/scotland_fixture_archive.cfm?page=823

    Scottish Football Historical Archive http://scottish-football-historical-archive.com/

    Post War English & Scottish Footballers Careers http://www.neilbrown.newcastlefans.com/

    Find historical football reports at at http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/

    Sources

    Robin Day, Blackpool Football, The Official Club History (1972)

    Brian Belton, The Lads of 23- 1923 FA Cup Final, (2006)
    Stanley Mortensen, Football is my Game (1949)
    Stanley Matthews, The Way It Was (2000)

    Ann Langton (ed.), Saved: A Rare Anthology of Football from Homer to Gazza (2006)

  9. Lessons in Nursing Care from the Early Years of the NHS

    The first series of Call The Midwife ended last night on BBC 1. The show was a huge ratings success, with its final episode being watched by 9 million viewers. Much of its appeal lies in the fairly accurate recreation of 1950s Poplar and of its realistic scenes of childbirth.

    Today, with UK healthcare under threat from the NHS bill, this portrayal of the Service’s successful early years may hold some clues as to how it could more simply be reformed. There have already been calls for the NHS to go ‘back to basics’, with the return of matrons and a focus on patients’ essential needs. Could a return to 1950s methods of nursing care, whilst retaining 21st century scientific and technological advancements, be the answer?

    Decades before the NHS was created the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, regarded open windows as the hallmark of a healthy hospital ward. Open windows were much in evidence on Call The Midwife, both in the hospital wards and in houses of the East End.

    This basic policy is supported by an article in today’s Independent, which reports on a microbiologist who believes air conditioning and an ultra-sterile environment are harming patients by contributing to infections. Jack Gilbert of Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago and head of the Earth Microbiome Project, explained the science behind his theory:

    Open windows let bacteria in from outside and you will either dilute out the pathogens, or you are not allowing the pathogens to establish themselves because there is too much competition for the nutrients and energy that the bacteria need to survive. . . There’s a good bacterial community living in hospitals and if you try to wipe out that good bacterial community with sterilisation agents and excessive antibiotic use, you actually lay waste to this green field of protective layer and these bad bacteria can just jump in and start causing hospital-borne infections.”

    Contemporary scientists are not alone in their praise of basic practice, as seen on Call The Midwife. My godmother, a retired chief midwife, was impressed by the authenticity of the breech birth scene in episode two. Mothers on the babycentre.co.uk webchat, agree. They believe that the 1950s method of covering the baby’s head with a towel, in order to keep it warm and prevent it taking a breath in the birth canal, was preferable to their experiences, which had resulted in lung pumps and incubators.

    Having been through childbirth twice, I agree that the birth scenes in this programme are the most realistic I’ve seen on any television drama. Happily, like mine, most of the births shown in the series ended successfully. However, one of the most tragic scenes was that in episode 4 where middle-aged headmaster David loses his beloved wife Margaret after she suffers eclampsia. Eclampsia and pre-eclampsia remain dangerous conditions. As now, good ante-natal care is key to identifying present and prospective complications. Sadly, Margaret was shown to have left her ante-natal appointment before being seen by the midwives.

    In the early 1970s, my mother saved the life of a farmer’s wife from a remote area who was admitted with pre-eclampsia:

    “We had to take her into a single room with the blinds down and keep her sedated. Suddenly she began fitting and her heart stopped. With no second to spare, I had to give heart massage until we felt a pulse. After this, she was given an emergency caesarean section, and both she and her premature baby survived.”

    mumnurse

    My mother, who began her training in 1963, warmly remembers the camaraderie of the early years:

    “There was much more of a family feel than there is in today’s nursing. There were many people aged 18, mostly young women, with very very few men in general nursing. We were all enthusiastic, really loved the patients and all the young ones felt we were in it together.”

    Like the midwives who lived together at Nonnatus House, my mother and her colleagues lived in a nurses’ home where hierarchy was much in evidence:

    “We were awe of the sisters, and the matron could sometimes be quite terrifying! We were issued with so many dresses, so many hats and so many aprons. There were the hospital laundries which did all the laundry and starched your hats. This helped keep infections down. The matron and sisters were very strict about hair being kept back, and absolutely no wearing of jewellery.”

    Community and personal relationships are seen as central to nursing care in the television series, and were very much key values for nurses of my mother’s generation:

    Everything was about caring for people, the care of the person. Especially as young nurses, we got to know the patients and their families. Great emphasis was put on nutrition – also the going out. The fluids in and the fluids out, as it were. Anyone who wasn’t up and about, we had their charts and went around making egg and milk drinks, making sure they were all well-nourished.

    I trained in a big hospital where we rarely saw the matron, but the assistant matrons did daily rounds. We had to make sure that we knew everything about our patients. The senior staff would walk round and ask any question at all. We had to be particularly alert with one, who asked the blood results of each patient, which we had to know without looking. Also, we looked after the whole ward so we knew every patient there.”

    This later changed, with nurses only being assigned a small number of patients on each ward.

    Some viewers have expressed relief that they do not have to give birth, drug-free, in a bug-infested slum in the bomb-shattered East End of post-war London. But many more are attracted to the positive experiences shown on Call The Midwife: the strong community, inexhaustible humour, and, above all, the patient-centred nursing care. On a day when so many are criticizing and heckling the Prime Minister and the Health Minister for their planned reforms, it seems appropriate to remember the value of high quality nursing in those early years of our National Health Service.

    The Guardian’s obituary of Jennifer Worth (Jenny Lee), who died shortly before the series was filmed, can be read at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jul/06/jennifer-worth-obituary

    For more on the local history aspect of Call The Midwife, see the The Sugar Girls’ blog: http://www.thesugargirls.com/call-the-midwife/ 

  10. Family History For Kids: New iPhone App

    As a genealogist and mother, I am keen to encourage my two boys, aged 6 and 8, to explore their ancestry in whatever way they can. So far, we have made family visits to exhibitions, living museums, and the former homes of ancestors. We watch history programmes on television, and period films. The 6 year old made a picture family tree chart by chopping up copies (I emphasize COPIES) of old photographs. And the 8 year old consulted census returns for a ‘family homes’ school project. But what they really, really like is playing with gadgets.

    Imagine their excitement when they were let loose on my usually prohibited iPhone to test a new app, Records Their Stories. This app is designed to aid family historians interview and record their relatives’ memories, using a list of over 100 suggested questions covering a range of topics.

    screen-shot-questions

    I gave the boys full control of the process. The 8 year old downloaded the app from iTunes http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/record-their-stories/id483574271?mt=8 He worked out how to select the questions he wanted to ask, and how to flip back to them during recording (press the question mark on the microphone). We found keeping all the questions on the phone easier and tidier than having loose papers everywhere. Once everything was downloaded and they had worked out what to press, the children found the app very easy to use. They could enter their own questions via ‘edit Questions’ but they were both happy with the range offered. Their grandfather also enjoyed the process, with the iPhone adding distraction and levity to the interview.

    screen-shot-recording

    Although the app contains its own editing device to cut out all the pauses, coughs and interruptions that are inevitable when children interview their grandparents, we opted for the professional editing service from the Record Their Stories team. The finished edit included a polished mix of the interview, and numerous additions, such as the soundtrack to their grandfather’s favourite film ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ and a bicycle bell and crashing noise to highlight his most embarrassing moment. Our edited version was just over 2 minutes long, but we’d recorded for at least quarter of an hour. In order to make the most of the professional edit you will need to record for as long as you can with as many relatives as possible.

    When my grandmother was still alive, I tried recording an interview with her using a cheap cassette with sellotape over the holes. We gave up after a while, as she tired easily and became confused. Thinking back, I know I would have recorded more with her if I didn’t have to lug around a radio-cassette player. If I’d owned an iPhone then, I would definitely have used Record Their Stories to interview Grandma whenever I could. Even though I lived with her for 15 years, I’m beginning to forget the way she spoke and her many expressions that I never hear anyone use now – ‘Dolly Daydream’, ‘a five and twenty to six’ . . . My children have already backed up their interview with their grandfather, and plan to record interviews with other older relatives whenever they see them.

    After listening to the edited interview, I asked the 8 year old how he had found the process and what he thought of the App. He replied simply: ‘Awesome!’

    screen-shot-editing

    The Record Their Stories iPhone app is available to download now. Professionally produced bespoke CDs from the RTS team start at £90 per recording.

    Website: www.recordtheirstories.com 

    Demo Video: http://vimeo.com/32479136 

    Fresh Air Production is a team of award-winning radio and audio producers, with clients including The BBC, UKTV, BMW and Channel 4.


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