Come to the Suffolk Family History Fair

Family Folk returns to the Suffolk Family History Society Fair this Saturday 30 September 2017 between 10 am and 4pm at the Waterfront Building, University of Suffolk.

Come along and ask for help with your unsolved mysteries, hard to read documents and what to do next.  Don’t be shy to #AskAGenealogist

Expert speakers, Michael Gandy and Myko Clelland wil explain “Tithes & Taxes” and “making the most of FindMyPast”.
Family History societies from Suffolk and elsewhere provide records and insights for thier areas.
Archives, museums and special interest group provide background context to your ancestors lives.
Suffolk Family HIstory Society Annual Fair 30 Sept 2017

Revisiting Shakespeare’s family property

Last week I spent a couple of days in the vicinity of Stratford-on-Avon, best known as William Shakespeare’s birthplace.  A couple of photographs from my grand-mother’s collection depict a cottage identified by her daughter, Barbara, as Anne Hathaway’s cottage.  Unusually, Barbara the family shutterbug, wasn’t the photographer as she is in one of the photos holding her camera.  Judging by her youthful appearance, my best estimate of the date the photos were taken is the early 1960s.  It isn’t hard to verify the location, but I stopped by to follow in gran’s footsteps and take my own photo.

Anne Hathway's cottage

Anne Hathway’s cottage. Black & white photographs from Mabel Adams, nee Coulson collection, 1960s. Colour photograph taken by Sue Adams 16 September 2017

Comparisons between then and now show the entrance sign next to the open gate has been removed, a taller hedge, a lack of visible re-thatching and the middle chimney looks shorter.  The public entrance is now round the back and the gate is kept closed.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust manages several properties that are associated with the famous bard, including Anne Hathaway’s cottage and Mary Arden’s farm, the childhood residences of his wife and mother.  Neither woman had any rights to the property now named after her.

According to the Trust’s website Anne Hathaway’s cottage passed from her father to her brother Bartholmew in 1581.  The Trust’s archive includes many digitised documents including the Will of Bartholomew Hathaway of Shottery, dated 6 December 1624.  The image of the will is hard to make out, even if you can read the handwriting, but a transcript helps us out.  The will describes property, including a messuage, the cottage, bequeathed to his son John Hathaway thus:

“all that my messuage or tenement, orchard, garden and backside, with thappertenaunces, seituate, lyeing and being in Shottery aforesaid, togither alsoe with two yard land and a half earable, meddow, comon and pasture, with two closses therunto belonging, seituate, lyeing and beinge within the towne, hamlettes and feildes of Shottery and Old Stratford, with theire and every of theire appurtenaunces”

The will specifies the order of successive inheritance from John:

” and to the heires males of his body lawfully begotten, or to be begotten” “and for want of such issue of the said John Hathaway,” “unto the saide Edmond Hathaway my … lawfully to (be) begotten” “and for want of such issue of the saide Edmonde Hathaway, I give and bequeath the saide messuage or tenement … aunces unto my sone Richard Hathaway, and to the heires males of his body lawfully begotten or to be begotten, and for want of such issue of the said Richard, then to remaine to the right heires of me the said Bartholmew Hathaway for ever”

This is an example of an entailment following the principle of primogenitor.  It is pretty clear that no woman stands to inherit!  The order of succession also tells us the birth order of John’s sons.

The property description of Anne Hathaway’s cottage is fairly typical of the time.  Could you be sure just which messuage or cottage it describes?  Situate, lying or being within the town, hamlet or field of Shottery or Old Stratford is hardly a specified street address.  This will is just one of the documents that records the history of title and other sources of evidence that identify the cottage.

Whilst visiting Mary Arden’s farm in the hamlet of Wilmcote, I met Master Charles, the farm steward enactor.  Stewards were responsible for keeping records, which Master Charles demonstrated by writing the farm account in his book using a quill pen and oak gall ink in secretary hand, a style appropriate to Mary Arden’s lifetime.

Master Charles

Master Charles writing the farm account. Yes that is secretary hand!

People who can write in secretary hand tend be mines of historical information and Master Charles was no exception.  Identification of Mary Arden’s childhood home is complicated by three factors:

  • Female inheritance and sales of the house
  • Close proximity of another similar house
  • Copyhold tenure

Mary Arden was the youngest of 8 daughters of Robert Arden, who remarried after the death of Mary’s mother.  His second wife, Agnes, was a widow with children from a previous marriage.  When Robert Arden died in 1556 the copyhold of the house passed to his second wife Agnes, the step-mother of Mary Arden.  In 1567, Agnes transferred the house to John Fulwood, the husband of one of Agnes’ daughters.

Mary Arden's farmhouse, Palmer's farmhouse

Left: Mary Arden’s farmhouse, Right: Palmer’s farmhouse

At Mary Arden’s farm there are two houses in close proximity, now known as Palmer’s farmhouse and Mary Arden’s farmhouse.   Palmer’s farmhouse was previously thought to be the Arden family home.

Copyhold tenure is the lowest tier of feudal land holding, with a hierarchy of rights and obligations.  The copyholder had use of the land from the lord of the manor  in  return for rents or services.  Identifying which manor a property is part of is tricky, especially when we are not sure of the manorial boundaries and how many manors existed.  The hamlet of Wilmcote lies in the parish of Aston Cantlow, but the manor of Aston Cantlow may have had different boundaries.

These are just some of the delicious complexities of English property records that I enjoyed discussing with Master Charles.

© Sue Adams 2017

The London Family History Show, 24 September 2017

Family Folk is coming to the London Family History Show this Sunday, 24 September 2017 between 10am and 4.30pm at Sandown Park Racecourse in Esher.

Please do stop by to try your hand at reading old handwriting, to ask me for guidance with your family history or just to say hi.


The show is organised by Discover Your Ancestors magazine and sponsored by The Genealogist.  In addition to the exhibitors, there will be talks by military historian Chris Baker, social historian Keith Gregson, and Mark Bayley of The Genealogist.

London Family HIstory Show

Using Irish road and tourist signs as a Rosetta stone

You know you are in a different country when you fail to understand all of the content of road signs.  Fortunately most are in both English and Irish Gaelic, so navigation adventures of my trip to the Clans and Surnames Family History Conference in Nenagh, County Tipperary last week were not due signage.

Silvermines nature trail

Silvermines nature trail

I photographed a selection of signs once I had parked the car.  On a walk around Silvermines, a small village a few miles from Nenagh, I found a nature trail, a National Looped Walk or Lúb Náisiúnta, so learned some names of local wildlife and features.

Silvermine Trailhead Sign

Silvermine Trailhead Sign

Irish English
Colm Coille Woodpigeon
An Spideog Robin
Smólach Ceoil Song Thrush
Buíóg Yellowhammer
Droichead Bridge
Eidhneán Ivy
Ailleán Painted Lady Butterfly
Broc Badger
Fia Rua Red Deer
Druid Starling
Mhóna Riabhóg Meadow Pipit
Eaglais Church
gnáthóg fiáin Wildflower habitat
National School, Nenagh

National School, Nenagh

Single word signs give a direct translation, but where there are more words it isn’t obvious what each word means.  Walking around Nenagh, I photographed some more signs and made a bit more progress.  I heard about national schools during the conference, so the word for national, náisiúnta, appears in both on the trailhead sign and the school in Nenagh.

Nenagh Abbey on Abbey Street or sráid na mainistreach

Nenagh Abbey on Abbey Street or sráid na mainistreach

Mitchel Street

From sráid na mainistreach for Abbey Street and sráid an mhistéalaigh for Mitchel Street, I can deduce that sráid means street and mainistreach means abbey, but I am not sure what the difference is between the prepositions na and an.

Nenagh Courthouse

Nenagh Courthouse

Nenagh Castle Tourist Information

Nenagh Castle Tourist Information

The sign outside Nenagh Courthouse reads ‘teach cúirte an aonaigh’ and the information board at Nenagh Castle is headed ‘Caisleán an Aonaigh’, so the Irish form of Nenagh is Aonaigh.  One of complexities of Irish genealogy is navigating the geography in both English and Irish.

Nenagh Castle

Nenagh Castle

This was my first visit to Ireland, so I have much to learn.  I am only beginning to connect written Irish with how the words are pronounced by native Irish speakers.  A week ago, I had no idea how to pronounce Portlaoise, the venue for Clans and Surnames 2018.


© Sue Adams 2017

Tutoring in Tipperary at the Clans and Surnames Irish Genealogy Program


Lough Derg, near Nenagh, Tipperary


I will spend the next week, the 15 – 19 May 2017, tutoring at the Clans and Surnames Irish Family History Research Program in Nenagh, Tipperary, Ireland.

So, why would an English researcher pay attention to Irish Family History, and what skills do I offer?

The two countries have connections going back many centuries.  The complex and often difficult relationship between England and Ireland has been marked by conquests and rebellions, most notably in Norman, Tudor, Stuart periods (from my English viewpoint), with the whole of Ireland under English rule between 1801 and 1922.  In consequence, records of Irish people are in English archives and vice versa.

Comparison of how two countries deal with common issues is a fruitful way of understanding the administrative and legal systems of both countries.  My particular interest in land and property records is about to be expanded, and I am sure I can offer insights to attendees.

Research methods and skills are not restricted to any one location.  My higher education has prepared me to apply a broad range of techniques to genealogical research problems.

Most of all, I anticipate an adventure!

It’s time for WDYTYA?Live 2017

With so many options of workshops and talks happening this year at Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE, I put them into a Google calendar to help plan my time. The data comes from the official website, with a few extra mini-talks on stand no 2, the Register of Qualified Genealogists, added. In previous years, other exhibitors like FindMyPast, FamilySearch and The National Archives have had presentations, but these are not publicised so I can’t include them on my calendar.

I colour coded events according to workshop programme and cost. Purple entries are the Society of Genealogist Workshops in theatres 1, 2 and 3, which cost £3 on the day. Green are the free SOG Wokshops in the Education Zone. Turquiose are The Genealogist workshops, yellow are the Family Tree DNA workshops, and pink are the Register of Qualified Genealogists mini-talks.  It looks like this from my google account:


Here is the embeded calendar, which looses my colour coding.

Alternatively you can download the calendar to any application that accepts the ical format.  Please feel free to experiment.

In Google calendar I can add meetings with colleagues, highlight which talks I want to attend and set reminders.

My calendar will not adapt to any changes in schedule, as I will be busy at the show.  Would you like the show organisers to provide the data for download into your choice of software?

My personal contributions will be as one of the ‘Ask the Experts’ on Thursday 6 April between 12 pm and 2 pm, and a 10 minute mini-talk entitled ‘Cracking the Code – Old Handwriting Deciphered’ on the Register of Qualified Genealogists stand on Saturday 8 April at 11 am.

Acceptance as an AGRA member

I am very pleased to annouce that I have been accepted as a full member of the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives, known as AGRA.

AGRA was established in 1968 for professional researchers in the British Isles.  The application required me to submit evidence of my genealogical knowledge and competence in genealogical practice in England and Wales. I demonstrated my skills through academic qualfications, samples of client work and an interview that included some searching questions.  As a member I am obliged to abide by AGRA’s Code of Practice.