Post archive

July 2017 Meeting

Ashford Branch July 2017


Our July meeting welcomed Steve Hookins with his new talk for 2017 entitled "Bits that don't fit".  This was a diverse talk from what the Romans did for us to modern day little known facts from the D Day invasion. Along the way, we learnt about gunpowder and battles. Whilst some of the topics were serious and thought provoking, there were lighter moments interspersed with humour


June 2017 Meeting

Ashford Branch KFHS June 2017

This month we welcomed Tony Farnham who talked about his personal experience of adoption. He did not find out that he was adopted until he was 37 and described how he had been prevented from knowing, only finding out at his grandmother’s funeral.  He then spoke about his search for his birth family, his appearance on the TV program “Surprise, Surprise” where he met his half-sister for the very first time and his now extended family. A not always happy story but very interesting and emotional.

May Meeting 2017

May 2017

This month was our AGM followed by a talk on Ashford Museum given by Mike Boulding. At the AGM Peter Rate, our Chairman for 9 years, resigned as Chairman. As a sign of the Ashford branch’s appreciation for his efforts he was presented with an engraved paperweight and book token. The search is on for a new Chairperson. All other members of the committee were re-elected.

Mike Boulding then gave us a history of the Ashford Museum starting with the history of the building it is housed in. He then gave a brief overview of some of the collections. The Museum is free to enter and the majority of funds it receives are from donations. All its personnel are voluntary and more are always welcome. After Mike’s talk there was a lengthy question and answer session as people seemed very interested.

April 2017 Meeting

April 2017

This month we welcomed Georgia Reed whose talk was entitled “Lighthouse Ahoy”.

Her talk was divided into three sections, the need for lighthouses, building the lighthouses and the men who operated and lived on them.

Georgia talked about the naval disasters and loss of life that led to the building of many lighthouses. In the 18th century if a seamen survived a wreck on the rocks they would most likely be murdered by the “wreckers” as the cargo of a ship with no survivors was considered fair game.

She told us about the difficulties of building a light house at sea such as the one on the Eddystone Rocks and why these lighthouses had to have 3 keepers resident at any one time.

Georgia ended her very interesting talk with some stories about some of the lighthouses and the men who operated and lived in them.

March 2017 Meeting

March 2017

This month we had Cressida Williams from Canterbury Cathedral Archives to talk about the overall work and resources of the Archives. The Archives contain 2km of shelving and half a million individual documents. Some of these documents date from the 9th century so they are older than any of the Cathedral buildings that are above ground.

They hold records of the Cathedral, Canterbury City Council and Bishops transcripts, Marriage licenses and Probate records to 1858 from the Diocese. Also they hold Parish Registers for most East Kent Parishes except the Archdeaconry of Ashford.

The talk ended with the problems of caring for original records. Although the confidence of caring for older records is high the conservation of modern records and media presents a problem for conservators.

February 2017 Meeting

February 2017

This month our speaker was Dr John Reuther talking about “Deaths and Burials of Tudors and Stuarts and their Funerals” 

John is a Biomedical Scientist and spent most of his working life in medical microbiology. He developed an interest in his talk subject when he realised that there seemed to be a ‘dying season’ just after Christmas each year. 

He started studying the Royals as they are well documented. He then took us on a sometimes amusing tour of the deaths of the monarchs and what they most probably died of. 

We also learnt that the Ague is a form of Malaria indigenous to the UK. 

A very interesting evening.

January Meeting 2017

January 2017

Our first meeting of the year saw Dennis Chambers talking about “Some Kent Ghosts – fact or fiction?” He related some interesting stories, those that were based on actual happening such as the events witnessed by the Olivers at 19 Stour Street in Canterbury and ones that were based on legends such as the Dark Entry in Canterbury Catherdral. Dennis also briefly spoke about Pluckley’s so-called ghosts. Altogether an interesting evening.

October 2016 Meeting

October 2016

This month we had a visit from Myko Clelland – Partnership and Outreach Manager for Find my Past.

He gave a very interesting and light-hearted talk starting with a story from his own family. He then went on to talk about the 1939 register and how to get the most out of it using the maps and demographics. He went on to talk about some of the other collections in Find My Past such as the Newspaper collection, Criminal registers, school records and how useful the dog licence records were for Irish research as everyone who had a dog had to have a licence! Myko then went on to speak about the Periodical Source Index (US) which is useful to track family migration. The evening went all to quickly but Myko stayed on to chat with members for a while.

September 2016 meeting

September 2016

This month we had a visit from Patsy Erskine Hill who spoke about ‘The Georgians (Polite and not so Polite). Society in 18th Century England.

The Polite were those who had some disposable income. During the 18C there was an enormous population increase with an increase in incomes. The Not so Polite were the lowest form of society. The Aristocracy were not Polite as they followed their own set of rules.

It was a time of great change in society. Wine (claret) became the drink of the Polite. Female culture and literacy began to increase (culture was deemed a mark of politeness). Cartoonists mocked those who aspired to be Polite. Macaronis  (highly fashionable men) were popular.

There was a huge growth in Public spaces – Coffee Houses, Assembly Rooms, Theatres etc. and also in scientific institutions. Altogether a time of great social change.

Patsy gave a very interesting and amusing talk illustrated with many of the cartoons of the period.

July 2016

July 2016

This month we had a visit from Tony Farnham who spoke about ‘Sailing Barges in their Heyday’.
Sailing barges originally came from Holland and there were two main types. 4500 were built in this country and were used up until the 1950’s. Thames sailing barges could be up to 82ft long and were usually only manned by two people – the skipper and the mate. They were used extensively during WWII to bring ammunition and shells to the isle of Grain where there was deep water and destroyers etc. could get in and load up.
Tony started work on the Thames sailing barges when he was 14 years old and the 2nd barge he worked on, ‘Cambria’, was the last UK vessel to carry a commercial cargo under sail. Despite the arson that completely destroyed the Dolphin Sailing Barge Museum in 2008 the Cambria has been restored to working order. Tony showed us slides of the different barges in various places around Kent on the London River (Thames) and the Medway and it was interesting to be able to recognise some places whereas others have changed completely. 

June 2016

June 2016

This month we welcomed Helen Dafter, archivist at the Postal Museum. 2016 is the 500 year anniversary of the Royal Mail. We heard that in 2017 a brand new Postal Museum will open not far from the existing one, with galleries, café, search rooms and exhibition space. There will also be new storage for collections. Also opening to the public for the first time will be Mail Rail, the fully automated underground railway that carried mail from Whitechapel to Paddington 1927 – 2003. 
We learnt about the history of the post office and the fact that Great Britain is the only country in the world that doesn’t have to put country of origin on its stamps. The first ever pillar box was trialled in Jersey and was the brainchild of Anthony Trollope the novelist who was at that time a post office surveyor.
At the beginning of the 20th century the Post Office was the largest employer in the country. The Postal Museum covers all history, social, war, transport, family etc. and contains many sources for family historians such as pension records, appointment books , minute books, and staff magazines.
A very interesting and informative talk with a reminder for those who wish to visit that the current museum will close on the 11th November 2016 and the new one will open sometime early 2017.

May 2016

May 2016

This month we had a visit from Dr Richard Baker of the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies. He talked about the roots of the Institute from Julian Bickerstaff and Cecil Humphrey Smith in the late 1950’s and the history of the building where the institute is based. We were then given an overview of the library and the extensive collections held there, including an extensive collection of Herald’s visitations and the Oxford and Cambridge Alumni. We were told about the various educational facilities and the program of courses, one of which is the only AGRA (Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives) recognised professional qualification. Richard then went on to mention “Achievements” the Family History Research Arm of the Institute and the finished with an explanation of the institute’s own heraldic emblem.

April 2016 meeting

Ashford FHS branch meeting 26th April 2016


We started the meeting with our AGM which was followed by Janet Adamson speaking about Scottish records or "Do ye ken your kin?"


Scotland had a much earlier state education system than England and this means that most of the early records are more informative. There are differences in terminology but most can easily be identified. Traditional naming patterns of children were widespread up to until the latter part of the 19th century and these can help identify families. Civil registration began in 1855 and there is a lack of death records before this time.  Pre 1855 records for the Church of Scotland were collected for the records office but not for non-conformists, who numbered a great many. Scotland's people is the main web site for information but obtaining records is more expensive that for England.


March 2016 Meeting

KFHS Ashford Branch

March 2016

This month we had a visit from Ian Porter, historian and author, who spoke about Suffragettes. He began with an overview of Women’s fight for the vote which started in 1867. We had an introduction to the National Union of Women’s Suffrage (NUWSS) formed in 1897 which was largely democratic and the formation of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), which split from the NUWSS in 1903, led by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters and which was a much more militant organisation.

Ian then went on to give us an insight to some of the characters in the Suffrage movement. Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, Fred and Emmeline Pethick Lawrence, Emily Davidson and Lady Constance Lytton to name a few.

He then spoke about the various methods the WSPU used to gain publicity, hunger strikes, the horrors of force feeding and the effect of the 1914 – 18 war.

In 1917 parliament voted 387 to 57 in favour of giving women over 30 the vote.

A very interesting, lively and at times humorous talk that was enjoyed by everyone.

February 2016 Meeting

KFHS Ashford Branch

February 2016

This month saw a visit from Celia Heritage, always a welcome speaker. She gave an informative and entertaining talk on school records and education. Beginning with a brief history of education, she went on to detail the steps towards the education system we have today. 

In the 16C schools were attached to the monasteries and grammar schools were established to educate boys in Latin. Early education was mainly for males and usually the wealthy, although there were some scholarships. Girls from wealthier families were usually home tutored. 

After dissolution schools began to spring up outside the control of the church. Early schools used monitoring teaching systems and teachers were a scarce commodity. It was not until the 19th century that education came to the masses. 

The first National School was established in 1811 by the Church of England and they established National Schools throughout the country, approved by the government. Board Schools were introduced during the last quarter of the 19C and ran alongside National Schools. Focusing on the state school system of the 19th century, Celia gave background information of social conditions that could affect attendance e.g. fees, child labour and illness.  The gradual rise in school leaving age was noted.  She used local records from a Kent village school to illustrate the type of information that was available in these records. A large number of these records are kept at the Kent Archives Centre in Maidstone. These records are usually subject to the 100 year disclosure restriction.

January 2016 Meeting Summary

January 2016

For our first meeting of the year we had a talk by Terry Whitling, The historian at Westernhanger Castle. The talk was entitled “The Road to Jamestown “

Terry has done extensive research on both sides of the Atlantic following the Smythe family of Westernhanger Castle.  

Westernhanger Castle was used as a command centre by Elizabeth 1st against the Spanish Armada. Thomas Smythe, son of Thomas (Customer) Smythe had a lot of commercial interests and was the first governor of the East India Company.  

He met John Smith (a private soldier) and Bartholomew Gosnold who wanted backers to explore the New World and after James 1st expressed an interest and Smith and Gosnold managed to drum up support the Virginia Company of London was formed. 3 ships were purchased with Smythe covering the shortfall for the expedition out of his own pocket. 

The ships finally set sail in December 1606 and after being delayed in the Dover Straits for six weeks due to bad weather they covered over 3000 miles in 4 weeks to arrive in the West Indies. After leaving the West Indies they got lost, the headed west and arrived in Chesapeake Bay. They were attacked by Indians and moved on to Cape Henry before looking for a place to settle and landing at Jamestown which they named in honour of King James. There they established the first English speaking colony in the New World. 

We were then given an overview of the problems of the early settlement and shown slides of the site as it is today. In 1994 Dr William Kelso found artefacts from the original fort and we were shown slides of the archaeological excavations taking place and some of the finds. Terry wound up the talk by showing us slides of the replica of the “Discovery” (one of the original 3 ships) which is now at Westerhanger Castle. 

November Meeting

November 2015 meeting

This month we had Peter Ewart speaking about tracing the History of a House and its Occupants.

He began by reminding us that family historians are also local historians too and he highlighted the flexibility of timescale because of the permanency of buildings so that unlike family history one doesn’t have to be pinned down to a certain time. You can start in any period.

Using his own property as an example he illustrated his talk with Title Deeds, Newspapers, Census data and Electoral Rolls. Also useful are old photographs which often put the house you are researching and other buildings into context. He stressed the benefit of knowing which parish the property was in at any given time as there were often boundary changes. Local branch libraries are often helpful with sale catalogues, post office directories etc. Tithe maps and churchwardens accounts are also very useful. It was a fascinating insight into house history whilst also learning about the people who lived there.

October Meeting

October 2015 meeting

This month’s talk was titled East Kent Place Names. The speaker was Anthony Poulton Smith, author of 71 books of which the majority are about the origins of place names.

He spoke for a while on how names came about, with a few personal anecdotes to illustrate, and how he does his research. He uses documents dating from approximately 700AD to 1800AD to qualify the history of a place name.  The place names were not used by the inhabitants of a site as they didn’t need to give it a name - it was either “the village” or “home” or similar. The name was given by people living locally in nearby places and was often descriptive of either the site or the people who lived there with an added mix of Celtic, Saxon or Middle English. The Normans tended to add their own surnames to a place i.e. Beauchamp, de la Zouche etc. A piece of advice he gave was to never pronounce a local placename as it is spelt or as you would expect it to sound as it is often incorrect. There are seven different sounds for places ending in – ough!

Anthony has now completed publishing the entire collection for all English Counties

 The meeting was then thrown open as a question and answer session although most of the questions asked were not about places in Kent!

September Meeting

Our speaker this month was David Cufley who gave a talk entitled “Six Degrees of Separation – an interactive experience to make Family History links between members and to verify if the six degrees of separation has any relevance to Family History Research.”

( Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone and everything is connected by introduction to any other person by six or fewer steps)

David informed us that 50 percent of any group are connected by place event or occupation.

There followed a lively interactive discussion using various topics such as place of birth, WW1 service, immigration emigration, to name but a few, to discover our connections to each other.

The benefit to Family History is that once a connection is made the persons concerned can talk to each other and swap information as each may have knowledge unknown or beneficial to the others.

This is only a short report as we were all interacting too much to take notes!

July Meeting report

For our July meeting our speaker was Ann Kneif who spoke about The History of Kentish Seaside Resorts until the First World War.

Yet again Operation Stack was in place and we were thankful that Ann made the difficult and time consuming journey.

She punctuated her talk with amusing and relevant Punch cartoons throughout.

Seawater cures had been recommended for health as far back as the reign of Henry VIII. During the 17C spas had become popular for those with some disposable income but by the end of that century people were travelling to take seawater cures as an alternative. In the 18C the use of bathing machines grew together with ‘dippers’ in attendance to assist the person taking the cure. It was believed that seawater and sea air were good for TB and the first seabathing hospital was founded in Margate in 1791 (opening in 1796). Folkestone’s convalescent home (with balconies for beds to be wheeled into the open air) opened in the 19C.

Ann then went on to talk about transport to the seaside and accommodation. Margate was the favourite place in Kent for a holiday during the 18C and at first travel was by horse and carriage on difficult roads or by sea on Sailing Hoys. Soon after the Hoys came Paddle Steamers and during the mid 19C the Railways and the Omnibus arrived. The popularity of the Railways made seaside resorts more accessible to the masses. Accommodation was usually in a boarding house (where one provided one’s own food which was cooked by the landlady), a hotel or a hired cottage.

Seaside resorts soon became places for recreation and entertainment. Bathing machines morphed into beach huts. Deckchairs began to appear towards the end of the 19C. There were donkey rides, Punch and Judy shows and stages set up on the beach for entertainment. The Folkestone switchback was popular and so was walking up and down the promenades and piers. Margate was the first resort to have a pier for promenading in 1815. There were three Camera Obscuras in Kent at Margate, Ramsgate and Folkestone. Circulating libraries were favourite places to meet and socialise. Most resorts had boat trips, a theatre and usually a horseracing track nearby.

The trade in holiday souvenirs began. Tonbridge ware, Goss ware and postcards were sold.

The meeting ended with a question and answer session and some member’s reminiscences of some of the resorts mentioned.

June meeting - Heir Hunters by Lady Teviot

For our June meeting we welcomed Lady Mary Teviot who gave us a talk on her time with Heir Hunters. As this was one of the days that ‘Operation Stack’ was in place and also one of the hottest days of the year we were very grateful that she managed to arrive.

She started with a brief resume of how she started as a genealogist with reference to her travels and being mistaken at various points as a geologist, geneticist and even a gynaecologist! The past has always fascinated her and she talked about the fact that most people can think of the moment that started them on their family history quest, for her it was a shaft of sunlight striking a family name on a tombstone whist on holiday shortly after her marriage. After she and her husband felt that they had exhausted all avenues to their family history they offered their services to a research company. This offer was accepted and they were employed at 12s 6d an hour. This in turn led to them being invited to join Heir Hunters.

We then had a very interesting explanation of the Bona Vacantia list which used to be published at 1 minute past midnight each Thursday but since its inclusion on the website is now published daily. Only estates worth over £500 go onto the list and following some criminal activity the value of an estate is no longer given. The exceptions to this are the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall. Illegitimate children can now inherit and adopted children can only inherit from their adopted family not their birth family.

 The preferred method for initial contact is by telephone which is becoming more difficult with so many people being ex-directory. Other difficulties are convincing potential beneficiaries that the contact is genuine and not a scam and obtaining BMD certificates for those born overseas.

Some estates have a huge number of beneficiaries. One was highlighted that had 79 known beneficiaries who each received a cheque for £4.37p. In another case the beneficiary refused the payment as they didn’t want it known that they were illegitimate.

Finally we were treated to an insight into the making of a TV program and how time consuming it can be to film even a simple task such as passing a piece of paper from one person to another.

To finish Lady Teviot read out her “one and only fan letter”. She then answered questions from the audience before leaving to attempt what could possibly be a difficult journey home.

A highly entertaining and instructive evening.

May Meeting - Jayne Shrimpton's talk on Clothing & Fashion through the Censuses

Jayne Shrimpton, dress historian, gave an interesting talk on clothing and fashion through the Census periods 1801 – 1911. Using fashion plates and family portraits until commercial photography became popular in the 1840’s she showed us images of dress worn by the upper classes to the working classes. Jayne began with the unofficial census in 1801 where dress for women was in the classical high waisted style and wearing white muslin was a status symbol. The red hooded cloak (riding hood) was a major item of country wear until the Victorian era. We learnt how fashion became more decorative in the 1820’s, the popularity of the hourglass shape in the 1830’s, flounced skirts in the 1850’s, crinolines in the 1860’s, bustles in the 1870’s ending with the restrictive hobble skirt around 1911. In men’s fashion Saville Row was taking off in the 1810’s with tailors often producing fashion plates to show off their expertise. We learnt how men’s fashion often mirrored that of women’s fashion, the development of trousers instead of breeches and the introduction of the fly front. All together a very entertaining evening.

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