The BIG Family History Fair returns in 2015

The BIG Family History Fair is set to return, again to St Ives’ Burgess Hall, on 2nd May 2015.

I’m very pleased to have spotted that The BIG Family History Fair is set to return on 2nd May 2015.

Returning to St Ives’ Burgess Hall, Cambridgeshire, after a 3 year break, The BIG Family History Fair will bring together experts, local genealogy and history societies, and companies with products to help you with your research.

One of the halls at The Big Family History Fair 2012, St Ives.
One of the halls at The Big Family History Fair 2012, St Ives.

2012’s show was busy – with expert talks full, and so this show will hopefully expand on that success, as well as prove to be just as successful.

More information can be found nearer the time at the Huntingdonshire Family History Society’s website.

With Who Do You Think You Are? Live scheduled just a few weeks before in Birmingham, this comes as a welcome treat.

See you there!


No ‘Big Family History Fair’ for 2013

Huntingdonshire Family History Society crestHuntingdonshire Family History Society has confirmed that there will be no ‘Big Family History Fair’ in 2013.

Last April, I visited the fair, which packed both car park and the St Ives venue with visitors for a day’s worth of genealogy and local history shopping, networking, and expert talks.

The glimmer of hope from the contact at the Society about a repeat of hosting it again, is that they ‘may do again in the future’ – perhaps in 2014?

Meanwhile, the Society continue to run their regular programme of events – which cover a broad range of local history topics.

Surname Saturday: GILBERT

Surname Saturday: GILBERT – The Gilbert family of Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire are the focus of this week’s meme day.

This week’s Surname Saturday post is that of my paternal Gilbert family. My connection is through my paternal Great Grandmother, who was born in 1884, in Littleport, Cambridgeshire.

With the help of the research of distant relative Colin Tabeart, the tree has been found to stretch back through time as far as 1694 when the family turns up in Abbotsley, Huntingdonshire (now part of Cambridgeshire). It is here that they are noted in the parish records and taxation records.

It appears that the earliest Gilbert I’ve found (with, as yet, an unproven connection) was in Abbotsley, Huntingdonshire in 1605, when a John Gilbert takes his daughter Maria to be baptised in the parish church of St Margaret on 24th February.

Abbotsley Church
St Margaret’s church at Abbotsley, Cambridgeshire.

By the beginning of the 18th century, the Gilbert families in Abbotsley were booming with each seemingly having at least 9 children, and up to as many as 13 children over a 24 year period – as was the case of James and Anne Gilbert between 1752 and 1776.

In 1767 at Abbotsley, Elizabeth Gilbert (née Hale) – the widow of James Gilbert – is noted as paying a Land Tax of £1, 19 shillings to a Mr Robert Edsope.

In 1828, the son of my Gilbert line – William – leaves Abbotsley and heads about 40 miles North East to Littleport in Cambridgeshire, where he married Elizabeth Brightly. The couple settle down in Burnt Chimney Drove – an area of rich agricultural fenland just to the North West of Littleport, where William becomes a farmer. The couple bear 12 children, although sadly a few of these don’t survive their early years.

Whilst William’s relocation may well have been because of his love for Elizabeth, his parents – Edward and Susan Gilbert have fallen on hard times –  by 1851 they are both noted as ‘paupers’ and are living with their daughter Mary and her husband Thomas Cade. Susan has become blind, but goes on to live another 8 years. Edward only lived until 1852.

Elizabeth Howlett and James Gilbert
Elizabeth Howlett and James Gilbert

Despite this hardship, William and Elizabeth were making progress for themselves and managing to live outside of poverty thanks to farming. Their 9th child (also Edward and Susan’s grandson), James, was my Great Great Grandfather, and he survived his two older brothers. In doing so, and in an act not unusual or unlike primogeniture, he inherited his father’s farm in 1879, which by 1871 had grown to 40 acres and employed one family.

By this time, James had got married to Elizabeth Howlett – and they had already bore two of their eventual family of nine children.

The family still lives and farms in the area today.

Tombstone Tuesday – William Heylock of Abbotsley

Tombstone Tuesday – A weekly blogging meme. This week it’s an ornately carved tomb of William Heylock in the churchyard of Abbotsley in Huntingdonshire, England.

Ornate carvings on a tomb in Abbotsley
William Heylock's grave at Abbotsley has ornate carvings.

Spotted this tomb with ornate carvings on it at the weekend in Abbotsley, Cambridgeshire (or Huntingdonshire as it was when the person was buried). The tomb belongs to William Heylock, the son-in-law of the then vicar James Aspinall at the time of William’s burial in 1688.

William’s tomb is part of a memorial to his generosity – he had given £5 per year (remember, this was written in 1688. £5 in 1688 had the same spending worth as £437 in 2005) to the poor people of the parish each year, and £1 to the vicar each year.

Ornate carvings on a tomb in Abbotsley
Another carving design on William Heylock's tomb

He also gets a mention inside the church. Notes suggest that his family held land in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire – which probably accounts for his wealth.

The Big Family History Fair 2012

The BIG Family History Fair 2012 – the Huntingdonshire Family History Society event took place this weekend.

This weekend I went along to the BIG Family History Fair 2012 at St. Ives, Cambridgeshire (alright, Huntingdonshire).

The BIG Family History Fair banner
The demand for that ample free parking was a little underestimated.

The event, which was organised by the Huntingdonshire Family History Society took place at The Burgess Hall and soon packed out their car-park. Fortunately for me, my gym is right next door, so I arrived early for a workout before heading nextdoor for some serious browsing amongst the crowds.

For those of you not in ‘the know’, Huntingdonshire stood as an administrative county until 1974, when it was absorbed by its neighbour and became a district of Cambridgeshire. The up-shot of this is that researching the records means you need to remember that pre-1974 the county is Huntingdonshire, and its records are held in Huntingdon.

The event took place across two floors – two halls brimming with stands from those now familiar companies and societies like S&N Genealogy, the Cambridgeshire Family History Society,  the Fenland Family History Society, and My History. Upstairs were a series of talks organised by the hosts.

As you entered the venue, the team from Family History Magazine were by the door, and everyone was handed a Huntingdonshire Family History Society bag containing a free issue of the magazine (plus some leaflets, a Hunts FHS notebook and pencil – nice!)

Shoppers at family history stalls
Just a few of the stalls – a mixture of societies and commercial companies.

I went along to Maureen Nicholls‘ free ‘Illustrating Your Family History’ talk – a captivating and fun 40 minute talk on ways to bring interest to those data heavy trees, charts and documents that the genealogist spends their time producing. Some great ideas came to light – including the reminder that when you’re lost for a photo of YOUR ancestor doing something – show a representative image of the types of schools, costumes, work that ancestors lived through – instead of admitting defeat because you don’t have a photograph of THEM in that scenario.

Maureen’s delivery was as engaging as her ideas, and she offered an occasional glimpse of her own research – an aunt who died on-board the doomed SS Princess Alice, her family tree cross-stitch that went to the House Of Lords, and her penchant for jellied eels (yuck!).

Potton parish church, Bedfordshire
I bought the Potton parish church registers on CD-rom.

I’d already decided what my purchase of the day was going to be, and so having achieved the largest ‘tweet-up’ that Huntingdonshire has probably ever known by meeting up with fellow twitterer Jane ‘@RamblingGenes‘ Freeman – who proudly showed me her new Flip-Pal Scanner (see, told you I wouldn’t tell anyone you bought one), I moved over to my target – the Bedfordshire Family History Society stand which was busy but very helpful and where I managed to purchase the Potton parish registers on CD-rom.

I was really pleased to see the range of companies and societies represented here – it was always going to feel different from a Who Do You Think You Are? Live, but it seemed to be well organised and attended.

The goodie bag!
The goodie bag!

I did feel the venue was a bit hot and stuffy, and the bar-staff seemed a little surprised that people wanted drinks and food at the drink and food bar – definitely not the organisers fault here though.

The added bonus for me was that it was very local, and of course FREE to attend!

I look forward to next year’s show – hopefully it will one day be on for a whole weekend, or on for longer than 10am-4pm with lots more useful genealogy talks.

Surname Saturday: FRANKS

Surname Saturday – the Franks family from Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire.

Sarah Jane Giddings (née Franks)
Sarah Jane Giddings (née Franks)

 The surname of Franks is part of my paternal family and my last direct ancestor to bear the name was Sarah Jane Franks, who was born in 1803.

Sarah Jane married my Great x 4 Grandfather Daniel Watson Giddings during 1825 at a church in March, Cambridgeshire. The couple settled down to produce eight children, which included a short-lived set of twins born in 1841.

Sarah’s sister, Mary Ann Franks (born in 1800) married Daniel’s brother James, but she died in 1824. James remarried, but then died in 1840.

A lost church

Sarah’s origins are a little ambiguous – looking back to the 1871 Census for March, Cambridgeshire, she states that she was born in that parish. However, go back 10 years to 1861, and Sarah states that she was born in “Coppenforth, Norfolk”, which does not appear to exist.

However, just a few miles from March is a parish called Coppingford – so this is likely to have been (or where she thought) her place of birth.

Coppingford’s parish church was destroyed prior to 1707, after which the villagers used the nearby church at Upton. It is likely that church records from Coppingford prior to this date were also destroyed.

By the time of Sarah’s birth, the population of Coppingford was just 53 persons. By 1931, this had dwindled to 29 persons.

Without church records or gravestone clues, the real identity of the origins of this surname are clouded, unless records for Upton can open a window on Sarah’s family.