Friday, September 21, 2018

What is happening to the "Genealogy in Hertfordshire" web site

If we install a lift this is where it would have to go!
I am still here but apart from a few minor behind the scenes updates to the main web site, and a few private emails, there has been no real action to report. The current situation is as follows.

  • On the computer side the old system which runs the ancient software to support the web site is showing further signs of old age and it only really being kept alive so that I can update the web site.
  • On the domestic side, we may have to make some changes to our house for health-related reasons. If we install a lift the only possible location would require me to significantly downsize my Hertfordshire Library.
  • As the main function of the library was to support the web site I may well decide to sell .off a significant number of Hertfordshire books on ebay over the winter, and will give details here when I do.
  • Where there is unique material I will consider transferring it to a suitable archive.
Blog: An Evolutionary Model of Human Intelligence
However 50 years ago I was put in charge of a project to design a human-friendly computer - only to be made redundant a couple of years later as the result of the government inspired merger to form the computer company ICL - which decided it was not interested. The subsequent story is long and complicated, but it now seems that my 1968 ideas were modelling how human short term memory works - and my ideas are now relevant to the way the brain works. As a result my top online priority in future will centre around an new blog 
Feel free to drop in to see a very different side of my interests.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A sick computer and lost emails

For various reasons I have not been able to spend much time on genealogy recently and the ancient computer I have been using to support the "Genealogy in Hertfordshire" web site has been having some serious problems including a faulty memory card.

While its can still be used to update the online web site it is not certain how long it will be working well enough to do so. Over the next few month I hope to be able to clear some back-log updates. As arrangements have been made for the site to be archived by the British Library everything online should be "safe".

When the old system finally collapses this blog will still continue.

Another fault has just lead to the "Outbox" folder (and possibly some other folders) of my email package being corrupted - before I had completed the move of all my email to a newer computer. My back up arrangement does not appear to have worked so if I has sent you an email from my hertfordshire-genealogy address in the last few years I may no longer have a copy!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Restrictions on the "Ask Chris" facility

I have just reworded the "Ask Chris" page on the main Genealogy in Hertfordshire web site to read:

Ask Chris
Your Questions answered by the Resident Genealogist
Sorry but Ask Chris is now
to new queries as this web site is currently being put into archive mode.
Messages are still welcomed if they help to correct errors or otherwise extend clearly identified web pages or relate to the source or reuse of material (including pictures) already on this web site.

The Newsletter Blog is continuing and news items for possible inclusion on it are very welcome.

The instructions make it clear that all emails will be treated as spam unless either they clearly specify which page on the web site is relevant or include news items appropriate for Hertfordshire Genealogy News.

The reason is quite simple - the time I can spend on the web site is extremely limited (due to other matters which need attention) and priority has to be given to the fact that the site will, in the not too distant future, only be available as an archive. There is a backlog of material waiting to be added to the final archive and I would like to concentrate on transferring this online, and of course correcting any errors, before the old computer finally gives up the ghost.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Weights and Measures offences at Watford in 1857

Petty Sessions
December 29, 1857

Unjust Weights Measures and Scales

People Mentioned

W. Stuart, Esq., Chairman
Sergeant Woolrych
Rev. A. H. Barker
A. Currie, Esq.

Before the Bench
Mrs. Shrimp
Mr. Mallard
Mr. Preston
Mr. Boddy
Mr. Bates
Mrs. Bye
Mr. Gotley of  Frowley Bottom (Abbots Langley)
Mrs. Neale
Mr. Fensom
James Weston
Thomas Hawes
Mrs. Ryder

Solicitors, etc.
Mr Adcock
Mr Sedgwick

Bucks Herald 2nd January, 1858 (From British Newspaper Archive)

If you can identify any of the offenders please comment below.

Monday, June 4, 2018

The origin of the Placename Betlow

I was recently asked about the origin of the surname Betlow and whether it was associated with Betlow Farm, near Tring, in Hertfordshire. I replied:
Surnames only started in medieval times and spellings only started to be standardised after the invention of printing and in some cases current spellings (both surnames and place names) may be only a hundred years old.  As a result any analysis of the origins of a surname must involve a large degree of uncertainty.
Some surnames came into existance because someone was named after the place where they came from. It is therefore possible possible that your surname "Betlow" refers back to someone who lived at a place called "Betlow."
The earliest known reference to the Hertfordshire village/manor of "Betelawe"was in 1203 with other 13th century references being to "Betelowe," " Betelaue" and "Bettelawe." The village was abandoned in the Middle Ages (possibly due to the Black Death) and for many centuries all that remained of the manor was a single farm.
The Moat at Moat Farm, Marsworth, undoubtedly dug to drain the central area for the Farm
 "The Placenames of Hertfordshire" suggests that the placename probably was a descriptive term meaning Beta's mound or hill.  The area around Betlow Farm is vey flat - so it clearly doesn't refer to a hill. I haven't visited the Farm but I know much of the area would have been very wet in the past - perhaps even marshy - although moden drainage has lowered the water table. So it is possible that there was a slightly raised area which was drained well enough to build a house.  Not many miles away there are moated sites (often with no surviving buildings, where the effect of the moat was almost certainly to leave a dry area on which a wooden farm house could be built. In the nearby Village of Long Marston the old church is on a mound perhaps 3 feet higher that the surrounding fields - with the remains of a waterfiled moat close by - possible for that reason.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Fasting at Champneys, nr Tring, in 1926

I have updated the Champneys page to included press cuttings and all the post card images now enlarge if you click on them

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Locating households mentioned in Census Returns

I have just had an inquiry about the location of a house described in the 1891 census as "8 Court No 10, Vicarage Cottages" in the parish of St Mary, Watford.

Care must be taken with such entries. For each household the census enumerator gave an enumeration number, in this case 197, which was only to help him check the paperwork was correct and can otherwise be ignored.

"Court 10" may also be a temporary name given for the enumerator's benefit to a court which was normally called "Vicarage Cottages." The courts were often little more than a collection of inhabited buildings in what had once been the back yard of a house or business facing onto the road. Most were what we would now called slums - and have long been demolished and the site reused in some way. Sometimes the court would be named after the owner - and I suspect this is the case with "Gregory's Yard." People using the census are often confused because a court may well be given a different name in different censuses.

The first thing to do when you are trying to locate a census property is to look at the front of the census book where you will find a description of the area covered by the particular enumeration book.  In this case the description show that the enumeration area  ends with "... to Mr Upson No4 Church Street, the Vicarage, Free School and Courts No 10 and 12." This would suggest that "Vicarage Cottages" might well be a court associated with the Vicarage,

It is often possible to get the same information by simply looking at the pages on either side of the property you are interested in. In this case the situation is complicated because all that is shown between Mr Upson's house and Court 10 are three unoccupied houses where no-one was living on the night of the census. These unoccupied house may well have included the Vicarage and a house for the headmaster of the Free School.

For more information on relating census locations to maps see

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Have you found a mummified cat under your floorboards?

The next Hertfordshire Association for Local History meeting is to be held in Tewin Memorial Hall on Saturday, May 19th


10.30 Doors open
11.00 Welcome
11.20 A series of talks by local history societies about their work and projects (Lowewood Museum, Hoddesdon; Rickmansworth Historical Society; Tring Local History Society; Watford & District Industrial Society; Wheathampstead Pubs Research Project; Community Archives Project)
12.40 Readings from John Carrington's Diaries (vol. II)
13.00 Refreshments with the opportunity to visit St Peter's Church
13.45 HALH AGM with presentation of awards
14.15 The Lionel Munby Lecture: The Concealed-Revealed Project, Dr Ceri Houlbrook 
Admission is free for HALH members; £2 for visitors.

The lecture seems most interesting as when people renovate old houses they sometimes find items what were hidden - perhaps under the floor boards or up a chimney breast. These could be an odd shoe, a horse's skull or even a mummified cat. Dr Houlbrook will talk about some of the finds and is interested in folklore and the reasons why such items were hidden away. He is working on "The Concealed-Revealed Project" and if something unusual hidden object was found during renovation work on your old house he would be delighted to have details. 


Saturday, May 5, 2018

Ask a silly Question ? - Some unusual First World War Comic Cards

As part of my investigations into the short-lived Crown Publishing Co. of St Albans, and in particular the unusual cards by Karaktus I have been checking up on other comic cards published at about the same time which used a crown logo and which might represent the same company (and perhaps artist) before or after the short period in St Albans.

My attention was drawn to an artist who signed cards "Spatz." His cards had a crown on the back, and first appeared about 4 months before the first "crown" cards appeared in St Albans. So it was clearly worth investigating.

In fact it proved a false lead, and "Spatz" turned out to be a bank clerk living in Yorkshire who was called Fred Gothard. Fred later produced many First World War comic cards for the publishers E. Mack and/or J. Salmon cards signed ""F G". He also did some  WW1 cards for Tuck & Sons.

While these cards turn out to have nothing to do with Hertfordshire I know many who follow this blog are interested in the war - and might like to see some of the war work of a rather unconventional and less well-known comic artist.

Friday, May 4, 2018

"Votes for Women" activity in Hertfordshire in 1911.

I was interested to see that the British Newspaper Archive has digitized the paper "Votes for Women" and decide to a have a quick peek at what was going on in Hertfordshire. The following comes from a report of the Christmas Fair reported in the paper of 22 December 1911.

Sec, Mrs Impey, 2, Whlnbush Road, Hitchin, Herts
Lady Constance Lytton, general organiser of the Hertfordshire Stall writes :-  I wish to thank the many valiant workers who, as contributors of money or goods, as organisers, as sellers, or as patronesses, helped to make this scheme of a  county stall so great a success. Our actual takings amounted to £72 10s.1d. Many goods are being returned to the various districts to be disposed of at local sales, and there are still some promised money contributions, to be paid in. The seven county branches, St. Albans, Barnet, Chorley Wood, Hitchin, Knebworth and Kimpton. Letchworth, and Radlett, vied with each other in zeal and unremitting labours. Our sign was an exceptionally beautiful one. We were all proud of it and of the admiration it received. We offer our united thanks to Miss Woolnoth who, with the help of the St. Albans School of Art, carried out with such artstic power the county crest of " Hart-in-ford" with the "Home-Makers" symbol on the other side. We owe a very special debt of gratitude to our non. sec., Mrs. Impey, and to Miss Pam of who organised the daily arrangement  of the stall. From 8 o'clock on Monday morning till past 1 o'clock on Saturday night, they were in constant attendance throughout the week.  Unsold goods will be returned to local branchesas soon as possible. A committee meeting will be held early in January, if not before, to wind up financial and other arrangements. The growth of the W.S.F.U. in the county has been little short of miraculous during the year. Now the our treasuries will be replenished and that we have gained in courage and solidarity from the intercourse afforded by our joint stall, we may hope to extend organisations and strengthen their powers of service with double energy in 1912. I feel it an honour, as well as a great pleasure, to have had a share in this county scheme. Finally, we offer our thanks to many kind friends outside the county who helped us in various ways. 

Do you know of any stories which like the suffragette movement to Hertfordshire which would interest other readers?