Northumberland and Durham Family History Society

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PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: At this month’s meeting of the Northumberland and Durham Family History Society’s north Northumberland group, four members each spoke about their own experiences of researching family history.

First came an interesting account from a professional genealogist of the types of work she is asked to carry out. These ranged from the mad and sad to the bad and glad.

Clients are asked to provide as much information as possible before hand to avoid searching for a needle in a haystack.

Many clients seek the help of a professional when they are elderly and may not be able to do the research themselves or cannot travel to do so.

It can, of course, be very satisfying when one can discover more about the person’s family history but there can be disappointing and painful discoveries also. Our member’s favourite source is death records and wills as they can reveal so much new information.

Next followed an explanation of the account book of an ancestor, employed by the Earl of Durham on the Fenton Estate during the 1880s.

The book is in excellent condition with names, place of employment, dates and amounts carefully written out.

A furniture bill from 1859 provides fascinating reading. It proves the point that many agricultural labourers were, indeed, literate despite the fallacy to the contrary.

We also heard about recent research on the Battle of Flodden, very topical in view of the forthcoming 500th anniversary in 2013.

Our speaker, who has recently produced several booklets on the battle, explained his findings concerning the true location of the encampment of the English Army before the battle. Documents have survived listing the names of men who fought at Flodden and a current project is aiming to discover more.

Finally, we were fortunate to see a well-preserved collection of photographs and lantern slides compiled by a member of the Grey family born at Tindal House, originally used in lectures given to Berwick Naturalists’ Society in the early 20th century.

Most of the photographs showed local historic monuments and archaeological features and it was fascinating to see how the surrounding landscape had changed since they were taken. The slides have survived in the hands of a descendant.

Our next meeting will be on Saturday, November 19, at 10am at Bell View, Belford, when Isabel Gordon will be speaking on Pests, Pestilence and the Perception of History. Come and learn how disease and illness have affected the lives of our ancestors. You don’t need to be a member to come along, everyone is welcome.