Northumberland and Durham Family History Society

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TRADE TALK: The Northumberland and Durham Family History Society’s north Northumberland group’s latest meeting at Bell View, Belford, took the form of a members’ forum with a focus on trades and occupations. This brought up a wide variety of contributions.

The headteacher’s log book (1908-1921) of the Church School at Shilbottle makes fascinating reading and is dominated by issues of attendance, inspections and admissions. Surprisingly little mention is made of the First World War, despite the fact that many former pupils served, some of whom did not return.

Measles and flu epidemics were rampant and pupils deaths not unknown. The headteacher complained strongly about the state of the building after adults had attended a whist drive.

School log books also proved valuable in providing background information to an ancestor’s life.

Special schools for children with disabilities were opened on Tyneside and the log books revealed a wealth of opportunities and outings provided for these children. In one case an ancestor took part in on a school trip to Alnwick. It was perhaps no coincidence that this same person later took up his trade of shoemaker in Alnwick.

The British Newspaper Archive website had proved a gold mine for one member who followed up a reference to an inquest on a death certificate and discovered in The Alnwick Mercury detailed reports of the deaths of four children of a relative. A sad story was revealed and a strongly-worded letter from the grieving parent to the editor was also found.

The story of a relative who died quite recently was told of a young woman who left a Northumbrian pit village to enter service in a London household during the Depression. Her adventures included saving the life of her employer when he was attacked by a disgruntled acquaintance and a subsequent court appearance as a witness. Though times were hard, she managed to save from her wage enough money to holiday in Switzerland in the 1930s.

An unusual occupation listed on the 1901 census was that of a ‘worn-out hind.’

Farming ancestors in the Milfield area would have been familiar with the list of field names brought to the meeting. We wondered how many of these names are still in use.

An unusual surname can be both a help and a hindrance when researching family history. One member found someone with a particular name in New Jersey in the 1730s and discovered his occupation as captain of a cargo boat between Ireland and Scotland.

Rent books had proved the clue to locating a cottage in Ireland of a weaver/labourer/farmer.

Our next meeting will be on Saturday, February 18, at 10am when John Ferguson will speak on Barmoor Connections. As usual coffee available beforehand.