Northumberland, Family History

Bell View resource centre Belford
Bell View resource centre Belford

A token gesture

The north Northumberland group of the Family History Society held an open session where members brought any item of their choice.

By special request, Yvonne spoke about her binary coding method of classifying direct ancestors. All males start with one and females with two. Another digit is added for each generation working backwards. This has helped her keep track of who is who, especially when names are repeated.

Enid brought along her pedigree, which aims to prove the connection to ‘Mad Jack Hall’ of Otterburn.

Ralph advocated asking other people when your own knowledge or skills are not enough.

Rosy showed us the Maling Family Tree, going back to Huguenot de Malin in 1562, since 1899 owners of Twizel, at Warenford.

Colin told us about his mother’s family in which an aunt had attended teacher training college, become financially independent and owned a car – not unusual these days, but very much so in the past.

Possibly the most intriguing item was a small wooden object, simply-fashioned like a shovel, from which a heart was carved out on the handle, bearing the initials A and D, which Bill brought along. It had belonged to his great-grandmother and was a sort of love token made by her husband to represent his trade.

Initially, such a token would be nailed outside the entrance to the house before marriage. When the couple moved in, it would be hung beside the fireplace inside. In this case it dated back to about 1870.

We would love to know more about this custom. If any reader knows of anything similar please email

Our next meeting takes place on Saturday, September 17, at 10am, at Bell View, Belford, when David Lockie will speak on a Northumbrian who settled in New Zealand. Everyone is welcome to attend.