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South Tyneside Branch / South Tyneside November 2017 Meeting Report
« Last post by Annf on November 24, 2017, 06:36:36 PM »
The speaker at the meeting held on 15th November was the Society's Vice Chairman Douglas Burdon who gave a comprehensive talk on the Durham Wills Project.

Douglas commenced by detailing how in 2006 Durham University, in collaboration with the Genealogical Society in Utah, had started to index the testators and scan the Probate Records held for Durham and Northumberland, excluding the peculiar Courts of Hexhamshire and Throcklington, for the period 1650-1858, a task which was finally completed in 2010.

These records are held at Palace Green Library, Durham, and include among other things Wills, Codicils, Will Executor Bonds, Administration Bonds, Affidavits, Renunciations and Inventories.  It was recognized by Douglas that these documents held a wealth of information for the Family Historian, and he illustrated his talk with examples such as the 1737 Will of Ann Clement which named 27 persons with 10 different surnames, none of whom had the name 'Clement', a letter from a sailor to his brother indicating he had been 'press ganged' into the Navy, an Affidavit signed by Church Wardens, and a Renunciation which named several children, 3 of the daughters having married.  Images of the Wills and related documents can be viewed on-line via a link from the University website

The Northumberland and Durham Family History Society have undertaken a project, the aim of which is to record all of the personal names mentioned in the 54,912 probate records between 1701 and 1858.  To date 6 Indexes have been completed, including Chester Ward East, which is the area from South Shields to Gateshead.  A further 7 Indexes remain to be transcribed and it is expected the Coquetdale Index will be finalised during December.  The completed Indexes can be purchased from the Society or they can be viewed at Percy House.

Tynedale Branch Meeting  9 November 2017  (15 members present)
      Members forum           Entertainment before the era of Televison
There was a lively discussion and the ‘crib sheet’ of ideas to keep the conversation going was not needed.  Several people brought items along.  The highlight was an old wind-up gramophone that dated from between the wars and used to be taken on picnics. The speaker remembered many happy hours in the 1950s playing the shellac records that came with it.  A record from the 1930s Band of the RAF was played.  Table games were another source of items and memories.  These ranged from “Pit” – a card game based on trading crops in pre-WW1 Chicago, never actually played – and other educational games to Bridge.  One speaker remembered that Polish soldiers would often stay in her village and were so good that it put the locals off playing Bridge at all.  Other table top pursuits were draughts, Halma and jigsaws.  When the players got bored with re-doing the latter they were turned over and the grain of the wood was used instead.  Books would be read alone or aloud to the rest of the family.  Music was important to some families with a piano or other instruments.  The radio brought many memories of a variety of programmes, including music, serials and comedy.  Few people had a television until the coronation sparked its growth, with people remembering having friends and neighbours in or going along to friends’ houses.  One speaker had an aunt in London with a TV set that had a magnifying screen in front. She visited her in 1947 and when she came back was asked to tell her school about it as no-one had yet seen one in Newcastle.  A lot of entertainment was made using paper and pen or verbally eg being able to use the alphabet to list things like film stars, flowers or countries.  Some activities were done in groups but in country areas it could be more solitary – the arrival of evacuee children was welcomed by youngsters who now had companions to play with.  The final item brought to the meeting was a lovely, large plate size, wooden solitaire board with marbles.  Its owner remembered hours playing solitaire when the family visited her great-aunt.
South Tyneside Branch / South Tyneside - November 2017 Meeting
« Last post by Annf on November 02, 2017, 05:13:46 PM »
The next meeting of the South Tyneside Branch will be held at 1.30 pm on Wednesday 15th November 2017 at St Hildas Visitors Centre, Market Place, South Shields.

Our speaker is Douglas Burdon who will be talking about the 'Durham Wills Project' with particular emphasis on Chester Ward East, which covers the areas from South Shields through to Gateshead.

Members from other branches as well as visitors are most welcome to join us for what I am sure will be a very informative meeting.
« Last post by Vglass on October 25, 2017, 11:08:44 AM »

We were pleased to welcome Anthea back again despite the gloomy-sounding topic and as usual we were not disappointed. First we learnt about the Bodysnatchers, particularly relevant as Belford Churchyard still has its Watch house standing, being vulnerable because it lies on the Great North Road with easy passage to Edinburgh Medical School. Fortunately the practice of stealing fresh corpses from graves died out by 1820s when it became legal to use the bodies of criminals for the purpose of medical dissection.

In the past professional mourners were sometimes used by those bereaved relatives who could afford it. Women were expected to dress in black initially, followed by grey and lavender for up to 2 years. WW1 saw the end of this practice as there were simply too many deaths for it to be manageable. Burial Societies were set up in the 19th century enabling subscribers to contribute financially to their own funeral.

It was pointed out that churchyards were never designed to accommodate increasing numbers of marked graves. Cemeteries provided a solution to this with the first one in Paris in 1804 setting the plan for the future and quickly being adopted by other countries. The first Newcastle cemetery appeared at Westgate Hill in 1829. They were designed to resemble parks where relatives could pay tribute to and remember the dead. This talk was illustrated by an excellent collection of images of gravestones showing the huge variety of designs and symbols used as well as some interesting epitaphs.

Traditional symbols included those of resurrection, angels, trumpets and the Bible, doves, flowers, serpents (eternal life) crosses and truncated pillars (for lives cut short). Gravestones were often purchased ready-made from catalogues. Stone masons were not always literate and there are many examples of spelling mistakes, words having to be abbreviated and even the surname spelt more than one way on the same stone.

Not everyone enjoys wandering around graveyards but those of us who do will be looking even more closely in future.

Our next meeting will be on Sat 18 November 9.45 for 10.00 when David Lockie returns to tell us about the Black Family of Ford Westfield Farm – the talk is entitled John Black’s Diary 1863.

Tynedale Branch Meeting   12 October 2017   (17 members present)
                Andrew Clark      Pubs, Brewers & Beer in NE
Andrew publishes books about the North East of England (Summerhill books).  A perennially popular topic is the pubs and brewers of various areas, especially Tyneside.  Unlike the history of various districts or eras the history of public houses is constantly changing, and can rapidly become out of date as the names, locations and breweries respond to economic factors.  The story started with coaching inns and hotels but in the 19th century social drinking spread, often linked to the local industries.  Shipbuilding areas and Scotswood Road had many pubs linked to heavy industry, such as the Hydraulic Crane and the Forge and Hammer.  The old Tyne Brewery was joined by four other breweries in 1890 – hence the 5 pointed blue star - to form what became Scottish & Newcastle.  Andrew told the story of the firm through some of its many adverts and pictures of its site, in the past and now.  Vaux and Deuchars (James and, separately, Robert) breweries were also described.  There was considerable audience participation when it came to identifying pubs or their locations past and present.   Many old pubs have disappeared.  Many became small supermarkets or restaurants, helped by the fact that they usually had good locations and layout and it was easy to transfer the alcohol licence.  There are sometimes clues as to the original use eg blue stars or names engraved on the frontage.  In contrast some pubs now inhabit premises which had a previous occupier eg banks or were built in previously ‘dry’ housing estates after WW2.   Another aspect covered was the change in prices.  In the 1930s Vaux was advertising its Maxim brand (named for the Maxim gun) at 9d a pint, 5d a half pint and nips for 3d – possibly all that some men could afford in the Depression.  The constant inflation of the 1970s increased prices rapidly.  Now the average price of a pint is over £3.  This was potentially such a large topic that it could not cover every brewery or everywhere but everyone thoroughly enjoyed the talk, whether or not they knew the locations or frequented pubs.
Blyth Branch / Blyth Branch Meeting
« Last post by joycejackman on October 03, 2017, 03:59:56 PM »
    October 17   Village Greens - Speaker: Charles Morgan
    November 21    Tynemouth & Cullercoats - Speaker: Ken Hutchinson
    December 12     Poetry for Christmas - Speaker: Alison Thoburn[/list]
    South Tyneside Branch / South Tyneside - October 2017 Meeting
    « Last post by Annf on September 26, 2017, 04:50:03 PM »
    The next Branch Meeting will be held at 1.30 pm on Wednesday 18th October in St Hildas Church, Market Place, South Shields.

    The speaker is John Ward who will no doubt be telling some interesting tales concerning 'Gravestones' for the family historian.

    All members and visitors are welcome to join us.
    South Tyneside Branch / South Tyneside September 2017 Meeting Report
    « Last post by Annf on September 26, 2017, 04:46:04 PM »
    The meeting held on Wednesday 20th September was a Members Forum for beginners and also on the theme 'How Honest were our Forebears'.

    Although no new members attended, we had an interesting meeting talking 'all things family history', including a suspected murder in South Shields, the merits or otherwise of newspaper archives in establishing facts behind the stories handed down to us, and the various records which are available to the researcher. 

    We also looked at ideas for talks and speakers for future meetings.

    North Northumberland Branch / REPORT OF TALK - SALMON GALLOWS
    « Last post by Vglass on September 20, 2017, 04:13:55 PM »
    The title of Ralph’s talk was intriguing. Although steeped in the salmon trade for all his life, he was puzzled by references in an ancient fishing document dating back to 1757 at Berwick Archives referring to Salmon Gallows. Eventually the mystery was revealed when an elderly acquaintance explained this term signified the look-out tower next to a fishing shiel on the banks of the Tweed. This was used by the lad posted on look-out to watch for the salmon swimming upstream and to alert the fishermen in the shiel. It all made sense; the tall wooden tower with a ladder does resemble the executioner’s gallows.

    Our speaker went on to list numerous odd and misleading references he had come across in his family history research, some from parish registers, others from local newspapers. He spoke of Irregular Marriages on the border and dispelled some of the myths associated with them. For example, these couples were not all runaways. It was the standard form of marriage for non-Anglicans, of whom most in these parts were Presbyterians.The fact that the ceremony was usually conducted at a lower cost was tempting to some. We heard several examples where the couples were not under-age but could even be called elderly! English courts did not always recognise these marriages. The case was quoted of a man transported for 3 years for the crime of bigamy.

    Birth, marriage and death certificates do not always represent true facts. Sometimes this is due to deliberate intention to mislead; sometimes it is accidental as in the case of people giving their own mother’s name when responding to enquiry about the name of the mother during a birth registration. It is also possible that some people gave false dates of birth of children to avoid fines for late registration.

    Bodysnatching was rife in these parts due to the proximity of medical schools in Edinburgh. Some churchyards gained a watch house for a night-watchman to keep guard over the graveyard. We heard the story of Betty Hogg whose body disappeared from the grave shortly after burial. After human hair was discovered on the stile out of the graveyard, the hunt was on and the Kennedy brothers were eventually caught in Berwick, leading to imprisonment at Morpeth. It is said that the corpses of thin elderly women were most at risk as they were easier to dig up and carry!

    Then there is the story of the dog who appeared as author of an online Family Tree on a popular genealogical website........such strange incidents make Family History even more fascinating! Ralph’s talk caused much amusement and we are sure he will have many more anecdotes to share in future.
    North Northumberland Branch / NEXT MEETING SAT 21 OCT
    « Last post by Vglass on September 20, 2017, 02:59:48 PM »
    Anthea Lang will talk on From here to eternity- graves and funeral customs. Bell View Belford at 9.45 for 10 am. All welcome!
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