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Diary of a Genealogist, 1820-2010

The background, foundation and development of the Society of Genealogists 

and genealogy in London

Anthony J. Camp, MBE, BAHons, HonFSG, FUGA, FAGRA




The founder of modern critical genealogy, Horace Round (1854-1928), wrote that, 'Love of genealogical study is an inborn quality. Many who style themselves genealogists are absolutely indifferent to any genealogical evidence that does not bear upon their own pedigrees; but there will always be some, like my own teacher, that eminent historian Stubbs, who have possessed that rare quality, a love of genealogy for its own sake' [1]. I had no inspirational teacher like Stubbs and yet I have never known a time when I was not interested in the subject.

I was not yet seven when Georgiena Cotton Browne, our local landowner, died at Walkern Hall leaving her estate and personal property to a young cousin whose parents organised an auction sale of many of her effects. My mother, who occasionally worked at the Hall, brought home a few unwanted books including A school history of England; with a copious chronology, tables of contemporary sovereigns, and questions for examination (1841). The tables of contemporary sovereigns at the head of each chapter fascinated me. They were for Great Britain, France, Austria, Russia, Prussia, Spain and the Papal States, and ended, of course, with the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. They cried out to be brought up to date. I think that that is where it all began.

My father, an agricultural carpenter and builder well known to Hertfordshire farmers for his construction of corn-drying silos, was the son of the estate carpenter at Walkern Hall who had married the daughter of a bailiff on one of the estate's farms. My mother, who knew almost nothing about her father who had died when she was two years old, had first come from London to work at the Hall in 1914 and we lived in a Lodge situated on a private road crossing part of the wooded estate with fine views of the surrounding countryside and of the village of Walkern down in the Beane valley. My father had been given the use of the Lodge and 'some responsibility for the integrity of this end of the estate'. [2]. The death of 'Miss C. B.' whose family had been at the Hall since 1827, and the many changes that followed, not to mention the not so distant echoes of the War which was ending, caused much anxiety for the future. A few years later the growing New Town of Stevenage, the box-like houses of which were beginning to appear on the distant horizon, threatened to destroy the peace and tranquillity of the valley and magnified our fears.

These feelings of insecurity undoubtedly had a lasting effect and when, after my mother's death in 1973, I gave up the Lodge and moved to London, I frequently had nightmares, imagining houses built on the surrounding fields and frantically recalling the Lodge’s rooms, going from one to another and positioning every piece of furniture, picture, ornament and book, in attempts to recreate the past and not let any part of it slip from my memory. By recording something of it I thought that I might begin to do just that. Like many others and in the same way, after leaving his Russian homeland in 1930, the dancer Igor Schwezoff described in graphic detail his former life there and his need to write things down and the 'overwhelming desire to be able to snatch back a little of the past and to undo something that could never be undone - or could it, perhaps?’ [3].

After I went to the Grammar School at Stevenage in 1949, I developed these interests and thoughts in earnest. There was a little covered alleyway down the side of Jeffries' antiques shop in the High Street where cheaper furniture was displayed. A table there with second-hand books was one of my regular haunts after school and whenever I visited the town on Saturdays. There in 1953 I bought a book about the history of Russia which had a lasting effect on my interests, though they never developed in quite the way that I hoped at that time.

Nearby was a branch of Burgess Booksellers and Stationers and upstairs new books were occasionally bought and school prizes chosen. There not long before my father died, he bought for me Chambers's Biographical Dictionary (1950) for twenty-five shillings, a book that I cherished greatly, superior to its more recent editions. I remember him exclaiming in surprise, 'It's all about people!' and my not knowing what to say. Not long afterwards on a bus trip to London my mother bought for me in Charing Cross Road the two volumes of Mark Noble's History of the Protectoral House of Cromwell (1788) for the large sum of two pounds. It kept me busy for many happy hours, compiling vast pedigrees across the floor. My eldest brother had been an agent for National Savings but the large posters that he was asked to display were useless, our house being a mile or more from the village, and so their backs came in very handy for pedigree work and indeed for covering books!

Cheap second-hand biographies could be found in Stevenage's only other bookshop, The Book Nook, further down the High Street and run by Mrs Warren, where at a shilling or so a time, my collection grew. From them and from the biographies borrowed from the public library in Orchard Road I constructed pedigrees of all manner of people. Delving into autobiographies I began to write to the authors of those that took my fancy, asking them to confirm and/or expand the pedigrees that I had compiled. The Russian ones fascinated me and an early correspondent was Baroness Agnes de Stoeckle who had been at the Russian Court before the Revolution and had met Rasputin. Count Constantine Benckendorff, the son of the last Imperial ambassador in London, took an interest in my tables, loaned me a collection of pedigrees of his relatives and provided me with my first copy of the Almanach de Gotha which he had used as a door-stop.

Another place that my kind of books could be found was upstairs at the Book House in Hitchin's Market Square where Eric Moore would sometimes buy from me books that I and my mother had bought across the road at auction sales at the Corn Exchange. Its monthly furniture sales usually included one or two lots of books and my mother would call in after her ordinary shopping and bid a few shillings, bringing home in her bag those that she thought of greatest interest, old maps, engravings and county directories. One day she brought home the fourteen volumes of the leather bound Historians' History of the World, but sadly was obliged to leave the indexes behind! The rarer books that were of little interest, including a nicely bound Breeches Bible of 1560 and a large collection of 19th century engraved bill heads, I traded in at the Book House, buying other books with the proceeds.

Whilst at the Grammar School at Stevenage in the mid-1950s I was encouraged by the history master Charles Jones (1908-1986) to start a project on the history of the town and I borrowed from Miss Grosvenor the notes on its history by the late Edward Vincent Methold (1846-1926) and then explored the many cupboards of documents in the tower at St Nicholas’s church, transcribing large parts of the parish registers, copying many churchyard inscriptions and rubbing the brasses. At the same time I developed an interest in my own family by pestering the local clergy for access to their registers at Walkern, Cottered, Ardley and Shephall, again copying inscriptions and rubbing brasses in these and other local churches. I saw then the unsatisfactory conditions in which the records were often kept, though those at Stevenage had benefited from careful cataloguing in the 1930s. I could take the bus to Hertford and the county record office and there learned about bishops transcripts, wills and other local sources but my early pedigrees were not very satisfactory, the purchase of costly birth, marriage and death certificates from the General Register Office in London being quite out of the question. At Stevenage Museum, however, I was fortunate to get to know Dr John Morris (1913-1977),the brilliant historian and archaeologist who later wrote The age of Arthur (1973),who took me digging at Watton-at-Stone and St Albans, and later facilitated my entrance into University College London to take a degree in Ancient and Medieval History.

It was as a result of reading biographies and writing to people who might add to the pedigrees extracted from them that in 1954 I had first contacted Sir Anthony Wagner (1908-1995),then Richmond Herald at the College of Arms, about a pedigree of Adolf Hitler and an unlikely relationship to Queen Victoria that I fancied I had found. It was Wagner who encouraged the idea of my working either for him or at the Society of Genealogists and I first wrote to the Society, then in a fine old house in South Kensington, on 23 August 1957, wondering if there were any opportunities there before going to university the following year. I suppose the fact that I had already done genealogical work locally in Hertfordshire, including the transcription of some parish registers, as well as projects in archaeology and local history, and been school librarian for three years, all spoke in my favour. As recounted below, and with Wagner's endorsement, I was offered temporary employment and commenced work as a research assistant at the Society a month later.


Sources and Practitioners before 1911

It is not my intention to write a detailed account of the origins of the study of genealogy in England  but I hope to sketch out the developments in the nineteenth century that led to the foundation of the Society of Genealogists in 1911 and then to give some account of the people who, for good or ill, were involved in its organisation and with the subject over the next hundred years.

When in 1911 the founders of the Society looked back over the previous century they saw the beginnings of a remarkable change in attitudes to genealogy but they were all too clearly aware that there was still much room for improvement in the work carried out. George Sherwood, in whose office the Society first took shape, called the division 'old and new' genealogy and in the 'old' world there were several things of which he strongly disapproved.

When discussing the possible formation of a society, Sherwood had written, 'Someday perhaps someone will arise with the gift of creating the proper atmosphere. At present we think the study suffers from its association in the public mind with, for example, the heraldic stationery trade, the trade in spurious antiques, manufactured ancestors, and the business of the shady character who ekes out a precarious existence on the reluctant half-crowns of deluded seekers after phantom fortunes' [4]. The following year he wrote that 'Old Genealogy became a byeword for no other reason than that it was neither Literature nor Science' [5].

Early Pedigrees and the Heralds

The first textbook on genealogical research had been published in England in 1828 and the author, the peerage lawyer Stacey Grimaldi, of whom more will be said later, reckoned that the first printed book to contain a genealogy (in England that is) had come out in 1547. Compiled by a versifier Arthur Kelton and entitled A chronycle, with a genealogie declarying that the Britons and Welshemen are lineallye dyscended from Brute, newly and very wittely compiled in Meter, it showed the descent of the new boy-king Edward the Sixth from one Brutus, supposedly a grandson of the legendary Trojan hero Aeneas (son of Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite) who had fled from the destruction of Troy and the arms of Dido, Queen of Carthage, to found Rome in Italy in 753 B.C. [6] and who married there Lavinia the daughter of the local king, Latinus. [7] This Brutus, it was said, had come to England via Spain and had given Britain its name.

This fable was already circulating in Wales about 769 A.D. when the Historia Britonum associated with the name of Nennius was put together [8] and it was much elaborated about 1135 by Geoffrey of Monmouth for his fictional but influential and widely read Historia Regum Britanniae which was first printed in 1508 [9]. The Historia Britonum, not content with a merely classical origin for the royal family, had given Brutus a descent through the Kings of Troy to Jupiter and Saturn, and then to Javan, mentioned in the Bible as a son of Japhet the son of Noah [10].

Early in the Anglo-Saxon period a king’s genealogy had been regarded as one of his most important possessions [11]. Copies were widespread and the ancestries of the various Anglo Saxon dynasties were traced back to the gods, seven to the storm-spirit Woden and one (that of the kings of Essex) to the god-spirit Saxnot. The welding of these traditional British genealogies of pagan origin to people in classical antiquity or named in the Bible followed the arrival of Christianity, time and the ingenuity of later antiquarians carrying the pedigrees back through Noah to Adam. These later accretions may be easily identified but it is much more difficult to tell how far the original Germanic elements are historical and when the ancestry becomes fictitious. The three or four generations provided by Bede for most monarchs named in his Ecclesiastical History (finished in 731) may be taken as authentic, but the further nine generations to Woden given for Cerdic (died 534),the first King of the West Saxons, and Woden’s fifteen further generations to Sceaf (who was later said to have been born in the Ark) are to be regarded as ‘either fiction or error’. That, at least, was the conviction of the late Kenneth Sisam (1887-1971) who had made a minute study and comparison of the pedigrees [12].

Apart from the pedigrees of their ruling families the Saxons seem to have had little interest in genealogy but after the Norman Conquest lengthy statements in the courts regarding claims to inherited rights and property became frequent. This legal aspect in which pedigrees were referenced on particular points became of increasing importance and dominated the subject for many centuries. Such statements of descent and relationship, of which there are many from the early thirteenth century on the plea rolls (the records of pleas heard before judges) of the courts of Curia Regis, Coram Rege and de Banco, [13] seem largely to have been based on orally transmitted information, though some of the longer genealogies may have been compiled from written sources, as in the Scrope versus Grosvenor case of 1378 when charters were produced in evidence. All were naturally subject to bias and error.

It was not until the fifteenth century with the development of other antiquarian and topographical studies that collections of pedigrees began to be made, the oldest books dating from about 1480. The involvement of the heralds in genealogy also began in the mid-fifteenth century but became of paramount importance with the Visitations which they made following a Royal Commission in 1530, they touring the country and recording short pedigrees based on family information of those who claimed a right to arms. The heralds were not then normally chosen for their skill in genealogy and some had little critical ability. This coupled with the rise in the sixteenth century of many new families to prominence in a society where the prestige of old blood was great, resulted, as it did in the nineteenth century, in some genuine research but also in much concoction.

As a consequence the heralds’ visitations of the 1560s recorded many lengthy but doubtful pedigrees as well as some fabrications and Horace Round frequently warned against their use as evidence of events beyond the personal knowledge of the informants [14]. It was not until the visitations made in the northern counties in the 1580s that Robert Glover (died 1588),Somerset Herald, began to illustrate the principle that pedigrees should, if possible, be founded on record evidence. Glover made his entries in the form of drop-line, tabular or rectilinear pedigrees, as used by Sir Thomas Wriothesley (died 1534),Garter King of Arms, earlier in the century. By 1618 such drop-line pedigrees had completely superseded the old narrative and crane’s foot forms, the latter with its radiating lines reminiscent of a crane’s foot (or pied de gru) from which the word ‘pedigree’ derived.

A working knowledge of the public records was first brought to genealogical research in the College of Arms by the industrious Augustine Vincent (died 1626),a former clerk at the Tower Record Office and a pupil of the great antiquary William Camden (1551-1623), who was made a Pursuivant Extraordinary in 1616. An apprenticeship system was, into my day, considered important in the practices of professional genealogists who thus had many advantages over the amateur working alone.

One of the first family histories to be compiled seems to have been that of the Berkeley family in Gloucestershire by their steward, John Smyth of Nibley (died 1640) using both public records and the family’s papers and charters in Berkeley Castle [15]. The first to be published, unless we count the fine work of the herald Francis Sandford (1630-1694), A genealogical history of the Kings of England (1677; enlarged by Samuel Stebbing in 1707), was Henry Mordaunt, Earl of Peterborough’s Succinct genealogies of the noble and ancient houses of Alno, or de Alneto, Broc of Shephale … and Mordaunt of Turvey (1685), written under the name ‘Robert Halstead’ but unfortunately containing forged charters and fictitious pedigrees.

Sir William Dugdale (1605-1686), Garter King of Arms, showed his superiority in the field in the skill with which he marshalled his various evidences for the descents of manors in his Antiquities of Warwickshire (1656) and for the descents of baronies and peerage dignities in his Baronage of England (1675-6), he citing contemporary record evidence for every statement made. When he was occasionally deceived by spurious documents, as with those on which rested the claim of the Feildings, Earls of Denbigh, to descend from a thirteenth century Hapsburg, one knows exactly what these were [16].

The pedigrees of knights compiled by the herald Peter le Neve (1661-1729) when Rouge Croix, show that by the end of the seventeenth century the pedigrees of newcomers to this class needed something more than knowledge of land tenure and he began to use the evidence of parish registers. In 1699 Sir Comport Fitch, whose father had been a carpenter, registered a  pedigree at the College of Arms which had apparently been worked out for him by a herald Samuel Stebbing (died 1719). Stebbing had set about it by copying wills, making extracts from parish registers, noting monumental inscriptions, interviewing members of the family, and fitting all this evidence together as best he could. It is an early and elementary instance, as Sir Anthony Wagner says, of what has since become ‘a commonplace of genealogical method’ [17]. Church monuments had long been used but half a century later the importance of those in the churchyard for humbler families came also to be recognised.

In this brief overview of the subject prior to 1828 I have drawn on Wagner’s essay ‘The study and literature of genealogy’ in his English Genealogy (1960),which was based on thirty years’ experience in the records and collections created by earlier heralds at the College of Arms. Outside the College there was by the early 1600’s a network of antiquaries spread across the country with, in Wagner’s words, ‘a scholarly approach to documents, helped by legal training and an ardour for genealogies in relation at once to local history, family history and the safeguarding of rights of property’ [18].

The discontinuance of heraldic visitations after 1686 coupled with the rapid decline in the fashion for heraldic display at funerals about 1690 was followed by a breakdown in heraldic authority which lasted until the third quarter of the eighteenth century. This low ebb in the heralds’ activities did not revive until George III’s reign produced men of the calibre of Stephen Martin Leake (1702-1773), Garter, and his successors Ralph Bigland (1711-1784) and Sir Isaac Heard (1730-1822). It was the view of Sir William Blackstone, writing in his Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-9), that ‘The failure of inquisitions post mortem by the abolition of military tenures, combined with the neglect of the heralds omitting their usual progresses, has rendered the proof of a modern descent for the recovery of an estate, or succession to a title of honour, more difficult than that of an ancient’, and Lord Chief Justice Mansfield wrote that ‘The proof of pedigrees has become so much more difficult since inquisitiones post mortem have been disused, that it is easier to establish one for 500 years before the time of Charles II than for 100 years since his reign’ [19].

Meanwhile, outside the College, an industrious Fleet Street bookseller Arthur Collins (1682-1760), the son of a gentleman-usher to Queen Catherine of Braganza, and a partner of Abel Roper, one of the publishers of Dugdale’s Baronage in 1675-6, produced in 1709 the first edition of a Peerage of England which brought Dugdale up to date and gave the pedigrees of newly created peers. It was an extraordinary success and new editions, regularly expanded, appeared in 1710, 1714 and 1717. Having acquired Dugdale’s manuscript revisions for his Baronage, Collins compiled a much fuller Peerage in three volumes in 1735, followed by further editions in 1741 and 1756, this last in six volumes, assisted by a pension from George II. After his death, further editions appeared in 1763, in 1779 and finally, edited by Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges (1762-1837) and with a useful index of stray names, in 1812. Collins’s Peerage dominated the eighteenth century and was hugely important as the basis for the pedigrees subsequently adopted by Burke’s Peerage, but, although valuable for the period after Dugdale, its various editions contained much highly inaccurate and mythical early material taken from the old heraldic pedigrees possessed by the various families which, for the favour of a subscription, they insisted should be included. Consequently, of the 294 peers listed by Brydges, thirty-five laid claim to ancestries dating to before the Norman Conquest [20].

The same was often true of the work of the local and county historians, mostly country parson antiquaries, who followed in Dugdale’s footsteps in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The industry of those who completed whole counties was quite remarkable but many embody fabulous material, their compilers not only being insufficiently critical but also coming under great financial pressure from the subscribers and patrons where their genealogies were concerned. As with the peerage families and the published Peerages, the gentry endeavoured to see their pedigrees published in these county histories and similarly these pedigrees found their way, fables, faults and all, into the coming editions of Burke’s Landed Gentry.

The traditional interests of these county historians were the established church and its buildings and the pedigrees and houses of the gentry and the descent of their lands. Their sources were chiefly, apart from family muniments and pedigrees, the basic parish registers, monumental inscriptions, wills and inquisitions, with only occasional forays into other public records. It is not difficult to understand why.

Parish Registers

The first order that registers of baptisms, marriages and burials be kept in the parish churches throughout England and Wales had been made in 1538, but as every genealogist knows that does not mean that they necessarily survive from that date or have been regularly and carefully maintained. Their value as a source of information for relationships in those families that did not own land had been realized by the end of the seventeenth century and in the eighteenth century concerns for their proper keeping and preservation were already being expressed. Ralph Bigland (1711-1784), then Somerset Herald, an active and competent professional genealogist perhaps better known for his interest in tombstone inscriptions, in 1764 put out for five shillings a 96-page work, Observations on Marriages, Baptisms and Burials as Preserved in Parochial Registers [21], stressing the need for the registers to be accurately kept 'for the benefit of society'. His plea for fuller entries, a national marriage register, and for each parish to keep a record of its tombstone inscriptions, fell on deaf ears but would, it has been suggested, have made him the 'patron saint of modern genealogists' [22]. Bigland had, in early life, been a cheesemonger and his interest in genealogy was roused, it is said, by his family's successful claim to an inheritance. Although Bigland's proposed entry forms were not widely adopted his book was a major influence on the antiquary Revd. William Dade (died 1790) who introduced even more detailed forms for the recording of baptisms and burials in two York parishes in 1770 and was instrumental in obtaining their wider introduction in the dioceses of York and Chester. Later in the century similar forms were introduced in the dioceses of Carlisle, Norwich, St Asaph and Durham but not formally enforced; none affected the standard recording of marriages as required by the Marriage Act of 1754.

At the end of the eighteenth century a very few copies of registers were then made by local antiquaries. The Society of Genealogists has a neat transcript of the Ixworth, Suffolk, registers, made by Simon Boldero, who apparently commenced work in May 1675 [23], and a copy of some part of the early Leeds, Yorkshire registers from 1572 onwards, was held by a local surgeon, James Lucas, in 1791 [24]. However, the historian of parish registers, Edmond Waters, believed that in general, 'the negligence of the eighteenth century was more destructive than the civil wars of the seventeenth' [25] and it has been rightly said that registers posed and, of course, still pose serious problems for the unwary researcher, for 'They tantalized by being at once sufficiently complete and seemingly comprehensive to encourage the belief that a full genealogy could be constructed, yet they had too many gaps and omissions for it to be done' [26].

Rose's Act of 1812 required that the registers be kept in iron safes in the parish church but said nothing about a fee to be paid for searches in them; indeed it was generally assumed that the public had no right of access except by favour of the clergyman and churchwardens. Indeed the Chief Justice, Lord Tenterden (1762-1832), had declared that he knew of no rule of law that required the parish officers to show the books 'in order to gratify the curiosity of a private individual' [27]. The Civil Registration Act of 1836, however, which brought in the centralised civil registration of births, marriages and deaths in 1837, ordered that those having in their keeping 'any register book of births, deaths, or marriages, shall at all reasonable times allow searches to be made ... on payment of one shilling for a search of one year, and of sixpence for every additional year', and 2s 6d for every certified copy. No provision was made for the extraction or listing of uncertified information.

Some clergy were quick to point out that register books of births and deaths did not include register books of baptisms and burials and that all extracted entries should be treated as certified copies but as a result of a test case in the Court of Exchequer in May 1853 it was ruled that registers of baptisms and burials were covered by the 1836 Act and that anyone who paid the search fees was entitled to make such extracts as he or she chose [28]. The Court’s important ruling, little publicised and frequently overlooked, resulted from a case brought by an attorney whose clerk had been charged the extortionate fee of £4 7s 6d for twenty-five baptismal entries in the surname Taylor which he had seen and noted in four years, 1827-30, at St Mary Newington, the parish clerk working on the basis that each entry should be charged at 3s 6d [29].

Anyone needing to search the registers of several parishes might consult the annual transcripts of the registers which the clergy were supposed to send to their bishops, if he (or she, though women were practically non-existent in this field at the time) was aware of their existence, the transcripts survived and access to them could be obtained on payment of heavy unregulated fees at the diocesan registry, but otherwise separate visits to the various churches would need to be arranged with attendant delay and expense, coupled with the unknown obstacles and fees which might need to be faced at each church. The fees were widely regarded as the perquisites of the clergy and as there was no clear guidance as to how they should be calculated, unscrupulous clergy resorted to various subterfuges to inflate them, particularly when applications for searches were made by post (the fees being for personal inspection of the registers by the enquirer). Many clergy, although not willing to admit it, did not have the skill to read the early registers in their care and blamed their inability to read the writing on the 'bad writing' of the originals.

For the next 130 years genealogists and local historians, increasingly horrified at the dreadful conditions in which many parish registers were kept, their steady deterioration, the ease with which they might be falsified, and the annual disappearance of some through fire or theft, saw centralised deposit and the removal of the registers from the hands of the clergy as the only possible answer to the years of neglect that they had suffered, though with the passage of time, deposit in the Public Record Office rather than in the British Museum was more frequently urged, there being no viable local alternatives. The importance of the registers to the legal fraternity in London in their inheritance and peerage cases is amply demonstrated by their involvement throughout the century in moves to secure their future safety.

In the 1820s the great antiquary and bibliophile Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872) advocated that all the registers prior to 1700 should be deposited in the British Museum and that modern copies should be made at the expense of the parishes concerned [30]. He had personally witnessed the destruction of parchment by the many gold-beaters, glue-makers and tailors active in his time. A census of the surviving registers in England and Wales had been intended by Rose's Act in 1812 but was not carried out. However, the statistician John Rickman (1771-1840), Clerk of the House of Commons, after consultation with the solicitor John Southerden Burn (1798-1870), author of a recent work on parish registers, Registrum Ecclesiae Parochialis (1829), persuaded the authorities that a survey be undertaken as part of the 1831 census [31]. It revealed, when compared with a few earlier county surveys, enormous recent losses, though some registers previously thought to have been lost had since been found. Burn was then employed by the Government in the preparation of the Civil Registration Bill of 1837 and as secretary to the two Royal Commissions on non-parochial registers.

A case in 1844 which involved parish registers and attracted widespread publicity seems typical of much that was happening in the first half of the nineteenth century. A notorious adventurer from Cardigan, John Bowen, who dabbled in local records and genealogy, had for some time been obtaining money from poor local people by pretending that they had claims to the Whaddon Hall Estate in Buckinghamshire long occupied by the Selby Lowndes family [32]. Following the death of the celebrated miserly banker James Wood (1756-1836) of Gloucester (his face well-known from caricatures and toby jugs), Bowen took an interest in Wood’s disputed will and worked on behalf of John Wood of Brierley Hill who claimed, without a shadow of real evidence, to be one of his heirs at law. In July 1843 Bowen went to Pirton in Worcestershire and was caught in the act of tearing a page from the marriage register of Croome d’Abitot in order to remove evidence of a marriage in 1741, a false alternative entry for which he had already managed to insert in the bishops transcripts of Croome at the diocesan registry [33].

At his trial at Gloucester Assizes in 1844 Bowen was described in the calendar as a labourer but ‘had the appearance of a man of 50 years of age occupying a respectable station in society’. Newspapers of the day said that he was sometimes called ‘Captain Bowen’ and had been in the Merchant Service but at the time of the 1841 census he gave his occupation as ‘Army’ [34]. He was sentenced to be transported for seven years, but at the end of his trial William Selby Lowndes (1807-1886),a Magistrate and Deputy Lieutenant for Buckinghamshire, applied to see the papers found on Bowen at his arrest and it was widely reported that the two had some secret financial arrangement. In any event following Selby Lowndes’s intervention John Bowen was ‘on account of ill health’ not transported. Well publicised claims to both the Wood and Selby estates continued until late in the century [35]. William Selby Lowndes had a major interest in other antiquarian matters and was a claimant to the ancient Baronies of Monthermer, Montacute and Grandison.

Between 1841 and 1847 John Southerden Burn had been in partnership at 1 Copthal Court, Throgmorton Street, with the prominent peerage lawyer Stacey Grimaldi (1790-1863), himself well known as the author of our first genealogical textbook Origines Genealogicae: or the sources whence English genealogies may be traced (1828). Both would have been distressed at the stories of further loss and neglect of registers that continually appeared in the periodical Notes and Queries which had commenced publication in 1849. A second edition of Burn's book, entitled History of Parish Registers, appeared in 1862.

In 1863 the Government brought in a Bill to extend civil registration in Ireland which would have excluded Catholic marriages from its provisions and this exclusion was attacked by the barrister Robert 'Edmond' (Chester) Waters (1828-1898) in an article, hurriedly written in February 1863, for The Home and Foreign Review [36]. Waters (who had adopted the surname Chester Waters) believed that a complete system of registration without regard to religious belief was absolutely necessary and to him the omission of Catholic marriages was a 'grievous error'. He pointed out that following the introduction of the centralised registration of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales in 1837, two Royal Commissions in 1838 and 1857 had resulted in the authentication and centralisation of over 3,000 non-parochial registers. The Scottish Act of 1854 had not only introduced a centralised registration of events in Scotland but had made provision for the preservation and centralised custody of the existing registers. Chester Water was not alone in condemning the deficiencies of the Irish Bill and before the end of the Parliamentary Session a further Bill was introduced to cover Catholic marriages, both coming into force on 1 January 1864, but unlike in Scotland no provision was made for the preservation and custody of the earlier registers.

Chester Waters' article was revised and enlarged into a 47-page booklet, Parish Registers, in 1870. In it he described Burns' book as 'a pleasant and intelligent guide' but after Burns' death in June that year, he made it clear that although he acknowledged Burns' pioneering work, he had not been impressed by Burns' 'frequent inaccuracy of quotation' and 'want of power to grasp his subject' and he, although a bedridden invalid, consequently further revised and extended his own booklet as Parish Registers in England: their history and contents: with suggestions for securing their better custody and preservation (1883).

The impetus for this latter work, compiled in such painful circumstances, had been another case involving parish registers in which this time the clergy were also involved and which consequently gained additional publicity. Early in 1881 a former naval officer, the Revd William Henry Edward Ricketts Jervis (1843-1914), then living at Lexden in Essex, announced that he was claiming the title and estate of Viscount St Vincent. He was the grandson of Captain William Henry Ricketts Jervis, RN (1764-1805), the eldest nephew and heir of the first Viscount, but he was not able to prove that the Captain had married his grandmother Cecilia Jane Vinet. In 1880 he therefore advertised for evidence of the marriage, offering a reward of £500. A former naval seaman originally from Ireland, the Revd Patrick Morrison Flinn (c.1844-1928), Rector of Holy Trinity, Shaftesbury, produced an entry which he said he had found in his register for 1802 and claimed the reward. However, the bishops’ transcripts proved conclusively that the entry had been substituted for the real marriage of a couple named John Peacock and Ruth Day. By very curious coincidence the peerage claimant had earlier been a curate in that same Shaftesbury parish with, of course, access to the registers. The Bishop of Salisbury had the matter investigated but it was said that there was not sufficient evidence against either man to ensure a conviction and the inquiry was dropped. By then the page of the register which had been tampered with had been torn out and had disappeared [37]. The case again illustrated the great importance of the duplicate bishops’ transcripts and was used to lobby for their universal deposit with the Registrar General. Searches revealed that Miss Vinet had subsequently shown that she was not married to Captain Jervis by later marrying as a spinster at Kensington in 1807 and Mr Flinn, who for a while was later Rector of Mawgan in Cornwall, got into financial difficulties, went bankrupt in 1891 (when he showed himself a wholly unreliable witness)[38], and migrated to Australia where he died at Mosman in 1928.

Meanwhile Chester Waters’s revision of his book had also been spurred on by the introduction into the House of Commons on 19 April 1882 by William Copeland Borlase (1848-1899), Liberal M.P. for East Cornwall, of a Parochial Registers Preservation Bill 'to make provision for the better preservation of the ancient Parochial Registers of England and Wales'. Borlase, a wealthy antiquary and archaeologist, had been much influenced by the constitutional lawyer Thomas Pitt Taswell-Langmead (1840-1882) who had, when only eighteen, written to Notes and Queries urging the centralised deposit of all original registers, [39] and who subsequently published a pamphlet, The Preservation of Parish Registers (1882). Taswell-Langmead in fact drafted the Bill and Borlase wrote a preface to the pamphlet.

However, there was considerable opposition from other antiquaries to the Bill’s centralising provisions. It would have placed all registers and bishops transcripts (the copies which the clergy were supposed to send annually to their bishops) prior to 1837 under the Master of the Rolls for eventual removal to the Public Record Office, though the registers from 1813 onwards would remain in the parishes for twenty years from the passing of the Act before being centralised. Indexes were to be made and searches allowed at a rate of 20s for a general search, 1s for a particular search and 2s 6d for a certificate [40]. The archdeacons and rural deans of Lincoln sent out circulars to their clergy with a view to opposing the Bill but the solicitor-antiquary Walter Rye (1844-1929) wrote later that 'no sane man' accustomed to searching registers before 1754 could doubt that the proper place for them should either be the Public Record Office or a diocesan fire-proof registry as Burn had suggested [41].

Borlase's Bill never went to a Second Reading and was withdrawn on 5 July 1882 [42]. Chester Waters, who had meanwhile published a much respected history of his family [43], wrote that 'the exigencies of public business prevented the subject being discussed during the late session' but that 'there is little doubt that a similar Bill with some modifications will sooner or later receive the sanction of Parliament' [44]. He was overly optimistic. Apart from the opposition of the clergy, many believed that the removal of the registers to distant London would be a great discouragement to local research, arguing that many county histories could never have been written if the registers had not been available for local consultation. It was a view taken by Sir John Maclean, the author of The Parochial and Family History of the Deanery of Trigg Minor (3 vols. 1872-9). Chester Waters, in his Parish Registers in England (1883), argued forcefully that transcription of the registers, with a second copy deposited locally, was the only answer. He wrote that those parishes that wished to retain a copy should pay for it from the local rates and he quite wrongly believed that, 'the growing taste for antiquarian studies and an increased sense of responsibility amongst the clergy has arrested the course of destruction' [45]. However, he now had a major disagreement with Horace Round who thought him a poor medieval scholar and a plagiarist and henceforth, as Raymond Powell says, ‘assailed him mercilessly’, not least it seems because as a result of his work he had received a pension on the Civil List [46].

The vulnerability of the registers was graphically shown in a trial at Liverpool in May 1886 when it was found that following the death of Richard Harrison at Warrington in 1863, his relatives had fought over his property and that two claimants (deceased by 1886) had inserted more than fifty fictitious entries in the parish registers in at least four churches (Preston, Kirkham, Poulton and Lytham),altering and erasing others, and similarly, in the diocesan registry, altering or ruthlessly destroying the bishop's transcripts as well as forging marriage licence bonds. The Cheshire antiquary John Parsons Earwaker (1847-1895) wrote a detailed account of the trial and although he lived in distant Abergele in North Wales he strongly supported Borlase’s Bill and concluded that ‘the sooner Mr Borlase’s Bill for the removal of all the Parish Registers to Somerset House becomes law the better’ [47].

However, the involvement of William Borlase with the abortive 1882 Bill proved unfortunate for a few months after Earwaker’s warm endorsement Borlase was ruined by bankruptcy and a well-publicised scandal in which his Portuguese mistress played a large part [48]. Ostracised by his family, he went to Ireland for a time and died in 1899. Taswell-Langmead, who had just been appointed Professor of Constitutional Law at University College, died at Hove in December 1882, aged 42.

Taswell-Langmead's wording of the 1882 Bill was criticised by Arthur John Jewers (1848-1921), a practising surgeon dentist in Plymouth who was also an antiquary and had himself transcribed and printed the registers of St Columb Major in Cornwall [49]. Ironically, when congratulating Jewers on his publication, Borlase had written, 'In it some Borlases do not appear to advantage. I hope they were of another family' [50]. Jewers had written to Borlase about his Bill in 1882 but in 1884 he published a pamphlet, Parish Registers and their preservation, in which he said that the Bill showed 'considerable ignorance of the actual necessities of the case'. He then set out a formidable and most expensive scheme by which the Civil Service Commission would appoint a 'Parish Register Preservation Department' consisting of an inspector-general, four inspectors, twelve clerks or writers, a secretary, an accountant and keeper of books and records, and an index compiler, all of whom were to be experienced palaeographers. These persons were to transcribe the nation's registers and bishops' transcripts, initially prior to 1799, and, being provided with the services of one or more printing presses, were to print fifty copies of each register, thirty copies being strongly bound in leather and certified. The original registers and one copy would remain in each church, the bishops' transcripts being sent to the Public Record Office and the other copies distributed to various libraries and repositories or sold. The total costs of the department, Jewers estimated, would be £15,000 a year.

It appears that Jewers caught, at this time, something from William Borlase, for he now left his wife and children at Plymouth and, describing himself as a bachelor, married (without the convenience of a previous divorce) a much younger woman, Gertrude Shilton, in Islington in 1887 [51]. He worked as a dentist at Wells for a while [52] and then moved to London, his abandoned wife running a lodging house in Plymouth [53]. Arthur Jewers's new young sister-in-law, Dorothy Shilton (1884-1962), lived with the couple [54] and was infected by his enthusiasms, she becoming a well-known record agent and very much later, marrying in 1934 her partner the archivist Richard Holworthy, an active early member of the Society of Genealogists whose first wife had died in 1933.

Jewers's approaches to various Members of Parliament soon revealed their doubts as to the funding of the project that he had outlined. The writer Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924) wrote immediately and realistically about the Bill, 'I fear it will be difficult to get it passed' and said, 'In the meantime could not a society do something of the sort, with such registers as the clergy will consent to have printed' [55]. Lord Salisbury wrote that he had 'no influence whatever with the Treasury, with whom such a decision would lie' [56]. The genealogist George W. Marshall wrote that he was in favour of the removal of the registers to London but that, 'What is most wanted is a Royal Commission to enquire into their present condition ... not more than one parish register in ten is safe from destruction now ... The idea of getting registers transcribed and printed is good, but impossible to put into practice' [57]. Jewers thus turned his attention to the possibility of a Royal Commission and concluded, along with the active Sir John Lubbock (1834-1913),then M.P. for London University, and William Borlase himself, that a Royal Commission might indeed be the answer [58].

To achieve this he conceived the idea of presenting a memorial or Petition to the Queen, signed by the Archbishops and Bishops of the Kingdom, that a Royal Commission be appointed which would name up to six commissioners to inspect and report on the extent and condition of the registers in their districts, and print fifty copies or 'a complete abstract' of any register found to be in decay. In 1891 Jewers, who was also a fine heraldic artist and was working on a complete record of the monuments and inscriptions in Wells Cathedral [59], persuaded the Bishops of Bath and Wells and of Ely to take the initiative and write to the others [60]. The Bishop of London wrote that although willing to sign, 'it cannot be acted upon without Parliament', but Jewers continued to collect signatures from various individuals and societies into 1892 when, at the suggestion of the Archbishop of Canterbury (Edward White Benson), the idea was abandoned [61]. The Archbishop had apparently given the impression that he would personally put the plan to the Privy Council but in July 1894 wrote to say that he could not recall agreeing to make any such proposition [62]. The archbishop died suddenly in October 1896 but Jewers persevered and immediately renewed his assault on the new archbishop, whom the Bishop of Ely saw about the scheme in February 1897, but with little headway, the Bishop of Ely writing realistically, 'I think there may be a great difficulty in getting the Chancellor of the Exchequer to agree to start this new office & staff' [63].

Meanwhile the passing of the Local Government Act in 1894, with its enabling powers to create local record offices, had given some hope of reform and during its passage the barrister John Cumming Macdona (1836-1907), M.P. for Rotherhithe and formerly Rector of Cheadle, who was very aware of the conditions in which many registers were kept, expressed the opinion that all the records in parish churches should be removed [64]. Registers were, however, specifically excluded from this Act’s provisions.

Early in 1897 Jewers heard that Macdona intended to introduce a Bill that would apparently place the registers in the diocesan registries in each cathedral city. Although advised by the antiquary Sir Henry Howorth (1842-1923) who was M.P. for Salford (and latterly a Vice-President of the Society of Genealogists), Macdona seems to have had little idea of what his Bill would mean in reality [65], but it was first read on 26 January 1897 and had its second reading on 17 March 1897 [66]. It then sank without trace.

Two days after the first reading the genealogist Edward Alexander Fry, of Birmingham, Secretary of the newly formed Parish Register Society and an active member and secretary of the British Record Society, had written very firmly to Jewers about Macdona's Bill saying that he was 'entirely against the removal of either Parish Registers or Records of any class to central depots either in London or elsewhere' and that 'Mr Macdona would do well to bear in mind that the Registrar General prohibits the searching of such Registers as are now collected at Somerset House under the 1837 Act & if that is done now the same could undoubtedly occur again to any fresh additions ... He certainly will have the most strenuous opposition from the clergy themselves or the bulk of them. The yearly Diocesan Conference would warmly take the matter up, I feel sure adversely to his opinions' [67]. Seemingly in no way discouraged Jewers continued until at least 1904 to promote his scheme for a Royal Commission, writing letters and interviewing bishops and archbishops, but all without effect.

The problems continued to be discussed in the pages of Notes and Queries and to be raised at the Congress of Archaeological Societies which published two Reports on the Transcription and Publication of Parish Registers in 1892 and 1896. Its important resolutions in 1900 following the revelations of the Shipway forgeries case are discussed below. In his book on the case William Phillimore, like Fry, had expressed himself strongly opposed to any idea of centralised deposit.

The situation continued to be argued at length by Joint Committees of Convocation which produced four reports on The collection and custody of local ecclesiastical records between 1905 and 1916. But it was only after the creation of the network of county record offices in the second half of the twentieth century that suitable places for deposit became available locally in each county and, after the legislation in 1978 described below, that the majority of the older registers were deposited and removed from the uneven care of the clergy.

By the turn of the century there was no shortage of books and pamphlets on the subject, they including Edward J. Boyce's History of Parochial Registers (1895), the Revd Nigel W. Gresley's pamphlet The history and custody of parish registers (1889) and, as we shall see, William Bradbrook's The Parish Register (1910) for Bernau's Pocket Library and J. Charles Cox, The parish registers of England (1910) for the series of Antiquary's Books.

Arthur Jewers left a more lasting monument in the work that he did for the City of London’s Library Committee between 1910 and 1919 when he and his second ‘wife’ copied the surviving inscriptions and arms in the whole of the churches in the City, in five beautifully indexed volumes [68]. Probably in recognition of this work he was granted a pension from the Civil List in 1918 [69]. He died at Hampstead in 1921, aged 73. Twenty years earlier Jewers had given a short account of his family to Fox-Davies's Armorial Families in which he omitted to mention his second wife but claimed that a male-line ancestor had changed his name from Eure to Ewers in the seventeenth century and that he was rightfully 'fourteenth Lord Eure, Baron of Wilton' [70], a claim not elsewhere recognised.

Sir Thomas Phillips had printed parts of a few early registers, the first apparently being Durnford, Wiltshire (1574-1650 only), in 1823. Various people unrealistically suggested that all the surviving registers should be transcribed and printed but, in view of the magnitude of the task, J. S. Burn urged in 1856 that only those before 1700 be tackled and later in 1868, when F. Fitz Henry proposed through the pages of Notes and Queries the formation of a Society to print registers, Burn quickly wrote that the ‘printing of a vast number of uninteresting registers … would be an enormous expense without a corresponding benefit to the public’ [71].

However, later in the nineteenth century some genealogists began to transcribe and publish registers in a systematic way. The Harleian Society, which had been founded in 1869 to print 'the Heraldic Visitations of Counties and any manuscripts relating to genealogy, family history and heraldry', subscribers paying one guinea a year, in 1876 published the whole of the registers of Westminster Abbey from their commencement in 1607 to 1875 in a remarkably detailed edition by Colonel J. L. Chester [72] (of whom more will be said later) and the following year that Society established a Register Section with the intention of printing as many of the more important parish registers as the members' subscriptions would allow, in the event mainly limiting its work to the London area, but including the registers of Canterbury Cathedral edited by Robert Hovenden [73], St Paul's Cathedral edited by John W. Clay [74], and Bath Abbey edited by Arthur Jewers [75].

Granville W. G. Leveson Gower (1838-1895), of Titsey Place, Surrey, who edited the first register for the Harleian Society, that of St Peter Cornhill in two volumes in 1877-9, had considerable doubts about the value of printing these registers in full and was concerned at the cost involved. He wrote that it would 'encumber' the volumes 'with a large mass of useless and uninteresting matter' and he argued that the society's business was 'only with the record of those who at the time the entry was made were persons of recognised social position'. It was a view shared by Chester Waters who wrote 'to print the whole mass [of registers] in extenso, is practically out of the question on the ground of expense' and 'it must be acknowledged that a very small proportion of the whole number of registers has any interest whatever for the general public' [76]. Leveson Gower copied no further registers for the Harleian Society, but his whole family were interested in genealogy. His grandson Richard Leveson Gower (1894-1982), a regular supporter of the Society of Genealogists, whom I knew well, was for a time a professional genealogist with the well-known firm of Hardy and Page, and Granville's brother Arthur (1851-1922), who was in the diplomatic service, copied and published vast numbers of tombstone inscriptions on his missions abroad. I also knew Arthur's daughter Victoria (1887-1977), a god daughter of the Empress Frederick, and helped her to identify some of those named in the diaries of her brother William, a clerk in the House of Lords but killed in action in 1918. I remember one day her pouring out on my desk from her knapsack for identification a pile of the most beautiful Victorian seals which had belonged to her grandmother Viscountess Milton.

In 1889 the Congress of Archaeological Societies and the Society of Antiquaries appointed a joint-committee to consider the best means of assisting transcription and publication, but unfortunately although many registers were subsequently copied, the committee’s recommendations, published in 1892, were that the registers be copied to the year 1812 only. A vigorous correspondence in Notes and Queries followed and in 1895 Edward Alexander Fry revived the idea of a general ‘Parish Register Society’ as Sabine Baring Gould had suggested in 1884. This time, largely through the efforts of George William Marshall, a society was formed in 1896 and continued to print complete registers until 1935. Local societies for the publication of registers were similarly established in several counties, including Shropshire in 1897, Lancashire in 1898, Yorkshire in 1899, Staffordshire in 1901 and Surrey in 1903. The Huguenot Society of London had begun to publish the Huguenot registers in 1887 and similarly the Catholic Record Society, founded in 1904, began printing the surviving Catholic registers the following year.

Following the above-mentioned recommendations, most printed transcripts covered the registers from their commencements up to the introduction of the 'printed form' registers for baptisms and burials in 1813, but some were taken to 1 July 1837 when the civil registration of births, marriages and deaths commenced at the General Register Office. Despite the initial optimism of the Parish Register Society, it was a slow and haphazard progress, much depending on the work of interested local historians and clergy.

The solicitor-genealogist William Phillimore Watts Phillimore (1853-1913) had argued in Notes and Queries that only the marriage registers should be copied (as they formed one thirteenth or fourteenth of the average register) and these only to 1812, and he did not think that indexing was urgent [77]. Believing also that 'one of the chief obstacles to the completion of a pedigree is the difficulty of obtaining the names of the wives', he therefore began to produce through his firm Phillimore & Co Ltd, founded in 1897, the first of a very long series of volumes containing transcripts of marriage registers only, mostly from the smaller parishes, and by the Second World War had covered about 1,650 parishes in 238 volumes [78]. The first volumes owed much to the work of the Revd James Harvey Bloom (1860-1943) and Arthur Scott Gatty (1847-1918) then York Herald (subsequently Garter), a skilled genealogist and formerly a secretary to Stephen Tucker, Rouge Croix.

As early as 1885 George William Marshall had compiled a list of those registers that had been printed, including in this the manuscript copies that were freely available in public libraries. This was printed in The Genealogist  [79] and he later made a similar list for the Parish Register Society, Parish Registers: a list of those printed, or of which MS copies exist in public collections (1900) to which that Society added appendices in 1904 and 1908. In 1908 again G. F. Matthews put together his Contemporary index to printed parish (and non-parochial) registers, showing where copies may be found in some public libraries of London, Leeds, and Manchester and that same year Arthur Meredyth Burke produced his useful Key to the ancient parish registers of England and Wales, listing the dates at which the registers in each parish commenced and noting those that had been printed.

The value and utility of some form of central index to the entries in the available copies of marriage and baptismal registers was, it seems, first recognised by the record agents Ethel Stokes and her friend Mary Louise Cox who in about 1898 set to work to form 'a general index' to 'Parish Registers before 1837' in order, as they later announced, 'to overcome the difficulty of finding records of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, unknown'. Their intention was to compile indexes that might be consulted on similar lines to the centralised indexes of births, marriages and deaths which, from July 1837, were being compiled quarterly to cover all England and Wales at the General Register Office.

Mary Louise Cox (1873-1936) was the daughter of a prosperous law-stationer in Chancery Lane and would have been familiar with the Public Record Office from an early age. In 1901, when 27, she described herself as 'ancient records searcher' working on her own account. Ethel Stokes (1869-1944), born in St Pancras to another prosperous family that afterwards lived in Maida Vale, had similarly been a searcher at the Record Office from the age of eighteen. About 1898 the two friends formed a 'Record Office Agency' and in 1904 as 'Stokes & Cox' took an office at 75 Chancery Lane [80], though they lived with Ethel's aunts in Castellain Road. In 1911 they jointly described their occupation as 'Hunting up genealogies & other historic records in British Museum & other places' [81]. They retained their office until 1939 when Ethel Stokes gave up her record agency work, her friend Mary Cox, who then lived at Highgate, having died in June 1936.

The couple believed that the period just prior to the introduction of civil registration in 1837 was the most difficult genealogically and they initially concentrated on the London parish registers, attempting to index on slips the years 1790 to 1812 or to 1837 if the registers were easily available. Entries from the surviving Bishops Transcripts of the Diocese of London from 1800 to 1837 seem to have formed the basis of the index, and the years missing from the Transcripts, which only commence in 1800, are also generally missing from their Index. These London Transcripts had previously been little used and were widely thought, as Stacey Grimaldi wrote in 1828 and William Phillimore repeated in 1888, not to have commenced until 1813 [82]. Richard Sims wrote in 1861 that it had ‘never been the custom for the Clergy in this Diocese to transmit duplicates’ [83].

By 1907 the Index contained three million entries [84] and was being further expanded by the regular addition of marriages from the county volumes of the Phillimore marriage series as they were printed and from other available transcripts and publications. These included entries from the many typescripts of London registers and bishops transcripts that, from about 1929 onwards, were being made by William Harold Challen (1888-1964), of Carshalton, which he gave to the Guildhall Library and partially to the Society of Genealogists (which he had joined in 1920). Ethel Stokes who herself joined the Society in 1928 and was elected a Fellow the following year, spent many hours on the work, generally extending the index back to 1780 where possible, as is clear from a typescript list of the parishes included that was made after her death.

In the 1930s when Percival Boyd began to produce the typed sections of his marriage index, the Stokes & Cox index contained material that was not 'in Boyd', particularly for London and Middlesex which was one of the first sections that Boyd typed, but following the typing of his Second Miscellaneous Series in the late 1950s it seems likely that the majority of these additional parishes (many from the Phillimore series) had also been slipped by Boyd. Only the material from the London Bishops Transcripts then remained unique to the Stokes & Cox index [85].

Following her partnership with Mary Cox, Ethel Stokes had seen a rapid increase in work and she acquired a remarkable knowledge of early sources and, as a tribute in The Times said [86], a fine scholarship and a technical methodology of the highest order, she being engaged over a long period in peerage claims and in the composition of detailed articles on medieval baronies for The Complete Peerage. In 1912 she had edited an index to the PCC Wills 1605-19 for the British Record Society and followed that with volumes of transcripts of the Liber Ecclesiae Wigorniensis, of inquisitions post mortem for Gloucestershire and Wiltshire and of feet of fines for Warwickshire.

In the late 1920s, Ethel Stokes together with Miss Joan Wake (1884-1974) from Northampton was instrumental in expanding the work of the British Record Society into records preservation generally [87] and when the British Records Association was founded in 1932 she was successively its chairman and honorary secretary. On the outbreak of War in September 1939 she gave up much of her record agency work and threw herself into records preservation, setting up an office at the Public Record Office (where she also ran a canteen and would sleep in an improvised air-raid shelter under the Library table [88]) to review material sent for salvage, and remaining extremely active in that field until her tragic death in 1944, she being struck by a taxi in Great Russell Street when leaving the British Library. Harvey Bloom, the expert on medieval deeds, also spent his final years during the War worrying about records sent for salvage. The dreadful 'paper pulping', as his daughter Ursula wrote, became 'the nightmare of his old age, the ever-abiding ghost that walked with him'. Bombed out from his flat in Balham he moved to Stratford-upon-Avon and continued his work calendaring the charters in the Birthplace Library there [89].

Ethel Stokes had maintained her office in Chancery Lane until 1939 and the exact whereabouts of the great index that she had been instrumental in compiling is not known. It may have been in store somewhere but as a result of enemy action the greater part of the baptismal index was destroyed. Very fortunately the marriage index survived and at some stage it seems to have been acquired by Henry William Sayers (1876-1962), of Thames Ditton, who, as described below, had taken over the extensive next-of-kin business of the De Bernardy Brothers, initially at 25 Bedford Row and then, from at least 1924, at 59-60 Chancery Lane. At the latter address he and his wife Annie Lydia worked with John Herbert Pallot as genealogists and record agents, specialising in Chancery work and intestacy or next-of-kin cases, their telegraphic address being 'Sayersanco'.

John Herbert Pallot, who had been born in Jersey in 1904 and whose wife Elsye was a qualified accountant, lived at 2 Lawn Road, Hampstead [90] but also had an office at 59-60 Chancery Lane, at least from 1933 until the War. His firm Pallot & Co was at 2 New Court, Carey Street, from 1946 until 1960 (he living at Harrow in 1951-55), and Henry and Annie Sayers continued to work with him. Both died in 1962, John Herbert Pallot being their executor [91]. Meanwhile in 1961, Pallot & Co had been succeeded at 2 New Court by another firm of genealogists, Andrew & Co. The Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies acquired the index, by then known as the Pallot Index, from John Andrew in 1972, the Institute adding slips for marriages in some further London parishes [92].

Although mentioned in Bernau's International Genealogical Directory in 1907-9, this extremely useful tool had remained almost unknown to working genealogists until this time. It was then said to contain 'several million marriages' in the London area between 1780 and 1837 [93]. The index became better known in 1978 following somewhat extravagant claims made for it in a full-page advertisement in The Genealogists’ Magazine [94], though many professionals considered the minimum search fee of £4 then charged by the Institute too high [95]. Later, when the 'Pallot Index' was published on CD-ROM by in 2001, it was found to contain 1,695,352 records from 2,600 parishes [96].

Monumental Inscriptions

The genealogical value of monumental inscriptions has been recognised for centuries [97]. The first book collecting them was probably the inaccurate Ancient Funerall Monuments (1631) by John Weever (1576-1632). In 1700 the Hertfordshire historian Sir Henry Chauncy, quoting Sir Edward Coke, wrote that inscriptions served four uses or ends but chiefly, ‘They are Evidences to prove Descents and Pedigrees’ [98]. In the eighteenth century Ralph Bigland, already mentioned as the author of the first book on parish registers [99], seems to have been the first to recognize the importance of tombstones as a source for those below the status of gentry and to copy them systematically. He collected local inscriptions in the 1740s whilst selling cheese to the armies in the Low Countries during the War of the Austrian Succession, long before he entered the College of Arms in 1757. In Gloucestershire he noted great numbers of inscriptions in churches and churchyards, many since lost, for his Historical, monumental, and genealogical collections relative to the County of Gloucester (posthumously published in 1791-92) [100].

Bigland was followed in this work by numerous 19th-century antiquaries and local historians, though most copied only a selection of the inscriptions that they found and even these were mainly those inside the churches. The destruction of many church monuments during the nineteenth century ‘restorations’ was a source of great disquiet to some of them and drew an unusual and heartfelt cry from the young antiquary Edward Peacock (1831-1915), of Bottesford Manor, Brigg, about their value for the ancestry of the ‘common people’ which appeared in the Stamford Mercury in 1861. He wrote with passion and foresight that ‘the desire to possess knowledge concerning our ancestors arises from no vulgar pride of ancestry, but from a natural instinct to connect ourselves with the far-off past. This instinct is felt as much by the poor as by the rich; it displays itself as strongly in the yeoman and the peasant as it does in the nobleman. … We most of us … are sprung in many lines from the common people; there are not many, we will hope, who are ashamed of this, or would wish to blot it from their own or other people’s memory. Is it not then a grievous thing that, by the meddling of churchwardens and others, we should be deprived of that which we now value highly, and which future ages will reprobate us for having permitted ignorant people to destroy? Genealogical investigations have always presented great attractions to a free people; as our race becomes more educated it is probable that the pleasure taken in the study of family history will be much more general than it is now. Already, America and Australia look to us to furnish them with materials of their forefathers’ [101]. The damage that had been done in Peacock’s county can be seen from the number of monuments noted between 1828 and 1840 by William John Monson (later 6th Lord Monson of Burton) which had disappeared or been destroyed by the time those notes were published in 1936. In the little church of Tallington, for instance, ten of the eleven monuments and a hatchment had gone [102].

It is thought that a Durham journalist and antiquary, Cuthbert Mills Carlton (1832-1892), was the first to make a complete copy of all the inscriptions in a particular place for his valuable The monumental inscriptions of the cathedral, parish churches and cemeteries of the City of Durham (1880), something that he himself considered important and of which he was proud [103]. In the churches and churchyards of London and Middlesex the work of Frederick Teague Cansick (1855-1918), both printed [104] and manuscript was noteworthy but far from complete. By the turn of the century several genealogists were copying all the stones in their areas, the work of William Gerish in Hertfordshire, mentioned later, being a notable example. On 8 September 1900 the active Revd James Harvey Bloom, Rector of Whitchurch, wrote to The Times regretting the widespread destruction of memorials and urging their transcription, as the earlier ones gave ‘information of relationships, offices held, places of residence and details of age which can be obtained nowhere else’ [105].

In the year that the Society of Genealogists was founded (1911), a few subscribers formed the English Monumental Inscriptions Society, its leading light being the Revd Thomas William Oswald-Hicks (died 1939, aged 77), Honorary Secretary and Editor of the Register of English Monumental Inscriptions, of which two volumes, mostly relating to Suffolk, were published for 1911/12 and 1913/14. He was probably thinking of the long established Association for the Preservation of the Memorials of the Dead in Ireland, founded in 1888, that did so much valuable work there and continued to publish its Journal until 1937. His society was however a casualty of the First World War.

Probate Records

Because proof of pedigree in relation to estates and titles was such an important element in the work of early genealogists the value of the probate records maintained by the church courts throughout the country, was also early recognised. In the seventeenth century Sir William Dugdale had made use of the wills proved in the senior court, the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his Baronage of England (1675-6). In the next century the use of wills by historians became frequent and in 1780 the antiquary John Nichols (1745-1826) published all the surviving royal wills prior to 1508 in a volume, the first of its kind, Collection of all the wills now known to be extant of the Kings and Queens of England and every branch of the royal blood. The earliest index or calendar of wills compiled for publication seems to have been that made for Nichols about 1779 by his fellow antiquary Andrew Coltee Ducarel (1713-1785) who indexed the wills at Lambeth Palace, but the scheme to publish it did not materialise as the fees charged for the consultation of the Lambeth index would have been lost to the Palace dignitaries. In 1826 the peerage lawyer Stacey Grimaldi was asked 10s 6d for consulting it [106].

Most of the wills that had been proved in the bishops' consistory and archdeaconry courts were at this time deposited in the diocesan registries around the country. However, there were in addition a large number of small 'peculiar' courts that claimed the right to prove wills, the records of which were frequently held in private hands and not easily accessible, so that, as Stacey Grimaldi wrote in 1828, the persons whose wills were proved in them were often presumed to have died intestate [107]. Altogether there were in England and Wales at this time about 370 courts that had the right to prove wills and grant administrations.

In 1822 the young and aggressively practical antiquary-genealogist and former naval lieutenant Nicholas 'Harris' Nicolas (1799-1848), shocked not only by the number and variety of the courts but by the conditions in which many of their records were allowed to exist, had written to the Archbishop of Canterbury suggesting that a centralised 'General Registry of Indexes' to wills proved and administrations granted be set up in London. He had mentioned that no list of the courts in the various dioceses then existed, there was no guide to their jurisdictions and much less any guide to their records, so that after a fruitless search in the main court, the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, any enquiry for a particular will could be a lengthy process. The Archbishop did not reply.

As a consequence Harris Nicolas had himself compiled such a guide, Notitia historica: containing tables, calendars and miscellaneous information for the use of historians, antiquaries and the legal profession (1824), which, as he later wrote, proved useful 'in exciting attention to the manifest inconveniences which so many courts created'. He reverted to the subject in the preface to his Testamenta vetusta: or abstracts of wills of the royal family, nobility and gentry, from the reign of Henry the Second to the accession of Queen Elizabeth, illustrative of the manners, dresses, household furniture and customs of that period; and of the descents and landed possessions of many distinguished families: with biographical notes (2 vols. 1826), making some characteristically strong comments on the regulations of the Archbishop's Prerogative Court at Doctors' Commons. The publication of further similar collections of wills was urged by Joseph Hunter (1783-1861) in his History of the Deanery of Doncaster (1831) and the oldest local record society, the Surtees Society, produced the first of many such volumes in 1835 [108].

Meanwhile the attention of Edward Protheroe (later Davis-Protheroe; 1798-1852), M.P. for Evesham, having been drawn to the lack of information on the courts and their records, he promoted several parliamentary enquiries that sought to clarify the complicated situation, calling in 1828-32 for details of the probate jurisdictions claimed by the various courts then active, their fees, records, safety and frequency of use. Following the publication of the important Returns respecting the jurisdiction, records, emoluments and fees of ecclesiastical courts (Command Paper 205, 1830), Harris Nicolas poured scorn on the confusion revealed in the registries, their ridiculous number (there were 28 in the Diocese of Bath and Wells and 38 in that of Lichfield alone), the exorbitant fees and the vested rights of the officials, in his Observations on the state of historical literature and on the Society of Antiquaries ... with remarks on record offices, and on the proceedings of the Record Commission (1830). The later Reports ... into the practice and jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts in England and Wales (Command Paper 199, 1832) largely agreed with the points made by Harris Nicolas and, as he wrote, 'showed the existence of serious evils in glaring colours'. They recommended that the peculiar courts be abolished and that one centralised registry be formed [109].

However, the numerous officials of the courts for twenty-five years resisted any reform with, as Harris Nicolas said, 'feverish tenacity' and he sadly did not live to see the outcome, but the whole paraphernalia of ecclesiastical jurisdiction in matters testamentary together with the powers of the small temporal courts that claimed the right of probate was eventually abolished by the Court of Probate Act 1857, which created, as from 12 January 1858, the Principal Probate Registry in London and forty District Registries throughout England and Wales (with others in Ireland) which were given specific geographical areas of jurisdiction. In 1875 the Court of Probate was incorporated into the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court (now the Family Division).

The geographical areas of jurisdiction given to the District Registries bore little if any relation to the former boundaries of jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts. Some Registries were situated in county towns and served whole counties, but in Lancashire, for instance, there were registries at Manchester and Liverpool serving those towns and another at Lancaster for the rest of the county. However, the pre-1858 probate records of the ecclesiastical courts were hurriedly split off from their other records and moved from their ancient homes in the cathedrals and diocesan registries to the nearest available probate registries. Some of these diocesan registries had long traditions of careful records’ preservation but in others, particularly those of the smaller jurisdictions, the records had often been stored in the most appalling conditions. Some had suffered frequent moves and consequent losses. Now their records were to be divided and those relating to probate sent to the probate registries. In the diocese of London, for instance, many records were stored at St Paul's Cathedral in muniment rooms, 'in a turret on the north side of the Cathedral above the Lord Mayor's Vestry'. Officers from the newly created Probate Registry visited the Cathedral in 1861-3 to 'roughly arrange' the records before taking them away, finding it impossible to do more 'in a place so dark and dirty'. All the records of a purely ecclesiastical nature were left upon the shelves but anything of a mixed character was brought away, including some books that contained no probate material at all and which consequently became quite inaccessible to the historian [110].

The records remained at the various probate registries for almost a hundred years, sometimes in conditions that were far from ideal and they were the subject of frequent complaint by genealogists and other historians. There was often 'neither accommodation for searchers nor any inducement to officials to give facilities for search', access only being allowed if it was no 'impediment to the business of the registry'.

In London the Principal Probate Registry was initially located at Doctors' Commons 'one of the queerest old rookeries in London' [111] to the south of St Paul's Cathedral and at the corner of Bennet's Hill and Great Knightrider Street, which, apart from a short period after the Great Fire, had been the home of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury since 1572 [112]. Following the 1857 Act it received also the records of many of the courts relating to the Home Counties as well as those of the dioceses of Sarum (in Wiltshire and Berkshire) and Oxford and of the Archdeaconry of Richmond in Lancashire and Yorkshire.

The search room at Doctors' Commons was open every day, February to September, 9 am - 4 pm, and October to January, 9 am to 3 pm [113], but the conditions both as regards the storage of the documents and the facilities for their inspection were, throughout the nineteenth century, cause for complaint. In 1826 Harris Nicolas complained bitterly of the obstruction and rudeness of the officials [114] and in April 1848 Lord Braybrooke, President of the Camden Society and fifteen members of its Council sent a strong memorial to the Archbishop of Canterbury about the monstrous office fees levied for the consultation and copying of wills, no information being available except in the form of office copies and all copies from 1383 to the present day being charged at the same rate. His office was, they wrote, ‘probably the only public office in the kingdom which is shut against literary enquirers’ [115]. The Archbishop (John Bird Sumner) evasively replied that he ‘had no control whatever over the fees taken in that department’ and the Camden Society in January 1853 wrote fiercely to the Commission on ecclesiastical courts saying that the authorities in the Prerogative Office with its ‘offensively enforced’ rules, stood alone as the only depository of historical documents in which there was not only no feeling whatever in favour of literature and historical enquiry but also 'an anxiety to retain extravagant fees' [116].

However, following the abolition of the ecclesiastical courts in 1858, further representations by the Camden Society and the Society of Antiquaries to the newly appointed Judge, Sir Cresswell Cresswell (1794-1863) of the Principal Probate Registry, were rewarded when he agreed to 'literary' searchers (i.e. those not working for lawyers) with suitable references being allowed free access to records prior to 1700. The Camden Society marked this 'era in our literary history' by publishing in 1863 a volume of wills, edited by John Gough Nichols and another industrious antiquary, John Bruce (1802-1869),which had been made without payment of office fees [117].

Daniel Kirwan, writing just three years before the abolition of Doctors' Commons, said that, 'The lawyers who practice here are all well to do, snug, aristocratic old fellows, and enjoy good living and nothing to do as no other disciples of the legal profession can' [118], but a chronic shortage of space there had already been relieved by taking some of the records to Somerset House and in the late autumn of 1874 the whole of the remainder was taken in waggon loads down Ludgate Hill, up Fleet Street and along the Strand to rooms on the south side of that building which had been vacated by the Admiralty on its move to Whitehall [119]. The Principal Probate Registry was formally opened here on 23 October 1874 and this was its home until 1998. The wills were stored in a long gallery under the terrace overlooking the Embankment and produced to the public in a ‘large and handsome apartment’, Room 32, immediately above and on the ground floor. Here the calendars of wills in the various courts were made available. There were three clerks who did indexing and attended to the public and there was one seat for those who had obtained permission to see filed wills and calendars without charge.

In 1862 another room, Room 9, with six tables and chairs had been provided for literary searchers and named the Department for Literary Inquiry. However, this was in the basement facing the quadrangle and although it was a high room and had a wide area outside its windows, it had no artificial lighting and consequently the opening hours were restricted from 11 am to 2.30 pm in the winter and from 10 am to 3.30 pm in the summer. In the summer, to add insult to injury, this cold, dark and unpleasant room, later likened to a 'cellar' by Ethel Stokes, was closed altogether for six weeks. No searcher was admitted on more than two days a week even if he or she had made an appointment in advance. The 'privilege' of working here was frequently hammered home and anyone who complained was threatened with the room's closure or the withdrawal of their literary permit. Following protests and a petition by scholars in 1884, however, a second room was thrown into this room and a total of twelve or fourteen seats provided. That only three had been allowed for in the original regulations was still being argued in 1913.

Room 9 held duplicates of the calendars upstairs where they existed, but this was not usually until after 1660, and the others had to be requisitioned and brought down. As at Doctors' Commons the literary non-legal searchers who had obtained permits from the President of the Probate Division were here allowed to see registered copy wills prior to 1699 without charge [120]. Within three years of moving to Somerset House that date had been moved on to 1760 and in 1884 it was further extended to one hundred years from the year of search. In theory, if the required will had not been registered, searchers were supposed to be able to see the original will on payment of a shilling but that became more and more difficult and latterly access to the originals was almost entirely prohibited. No copying by the readers was permitted, all copies being made, sometimes quite incompetently, by the staff and for fees. Two staff alternated in the management of the room and there were two messengers who fetched the heavy books of registered wills and the smaller act books, though only eight books could be seen on any one day.

In 1872 the able scholar John 'Challenor' Covington Smith (1845-1928),whose father had also been in the Civil Service, was appointed Superintendent of 'the Literary', as Room 9 was often called, and from then until 1892 he played an active part in the work and development of his small section. In 1882 he had greatly assisted the philologist Frederick James Furnivall (1825-1910) with his Fifty earliest English wills in the Court of Probate, London for the Early English Text Society and Walter Rye says that 'he was ever ready to offer valuable suggestions and assistance to all who are earnest students and not mere triflers' but that he was removed to another department 'apparently to prevent the Search-room from becoming too popular' [121]. Earlier Rye had said that without Challenor Smith 'matters would indeed go badly with any enquirer' and that his 'special knowledge of his subject and unfailing courtesy especially fitted him for the place' but that he had 'for some inscrutable reason been removed from it' [122]. Immediately on leaving 'the Literary', and the two events are probably not unconnected, Challenor Smith compiled for the British Record Society in 1893-5 two volumes of an index to the earliest wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury 1383-1558, 'the finest privately compiled calendar ever printed' [123]. Challenor Smith had lived for some years at Richmond in Surrey and in 1903-5 the local Parish Register Society published two volumes of his transcripts of the Richmond parish registers. In 1919 he compiled an index to the wills recorded in the archbishops' registers at Lambeth Palace and he produced a number of articles for genealogical periodicals.

When the records were first transferred to Somerset House there were plans to print calendars of them, but a pilot scheme to index those of the Court of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster proved too laborious and that volume alone was printed in 1864 (but not distributed) [124]. The two Record Keepers involved in its compilation, John Smith and Joseph Frederick Coleman [125], had found, as they wrote in the introduction, that every piece of paper had to be examined and properly arranged first of all and that where, as in London, different courts used a common registry, the records had often been 'mixed or misfiled'.

However, in January 1882 George Hook Rodman (1836-1910), the son of a bottle merchant in Chelsea, was appointed Assistant to the Record Keeper. He had worked in the Probate Registry from an early age and had been responsible for collecting the London records from St Paul's Cathedral in 1861-3 [126]. He was now given the task of superintending the indexing and arranging of the ancient records at Somerset House which at this time held the records of some 76 courts, plus another 27 from the diocese of Salisbury [127]. For more than twenty years he laboured at their repairing, sorting and calendaring. Under his direction a small group prepared many of the parchment manuscript indexes or calendars in fine Victorian handwriting which are still in use today as the standard means of reference to the records of the courts in the London area, though some have been superseded by modern printed indexes prepared by private record societies. When reviewing his work in the 1960s the archivist Ida Darlington wrote that he had 'a fund of industry and patience', taking 'particular pains to note down everything he did either in investigating the provenance of the wills or in repairs or other alteration to their format' [128]. Walter Rye speaks of Rodman as 'a gentleman of long experience ... ably assisted by Messrs Cheyne and Rouse' [129].

The first of these assistants, Ernest Cheyne (1853-1903), was the son of a surgeon in Marylebone. He came to the Probate Registry with a university degree in the late 1870s to work with Rodman and is also remembered for his work on the indexes. He died in harness in 1903. In those years Dr Samuel Anderson Smith (died 1915) had written 14,000 index slips to the wills proved in the Prerogative Court, 1558-83, and these Cheyne checked against the Act Books whilst Challenor Smith prepared an index to the places, the whole being edited by Leland L. Duncan for publication by the Index Library in 1898. Ernest Cheyne spent most of his working life in the Registry and his two beautifully written indexes to the Oxfordshire wills 1516-1732, completed in 1902, which form the basis of the British Record Society volumes published in 1981, have been described as 'exceptionally accurate' [130]. It was perhaps significant that Challenor Smith had retired before his index was published and Ethel Stokes later told the story of the registrar at Nottingham who had, in his sparer moments, made a calendar of the wills there with the idea that it should be printed, but the authorities at Somerset House had refused him leave to do so, saying that it was the property of the office [131].

Apart from the official returns made in 1828-32, the various courts and their records still lacked any form of basic manual but in 1895 the barrister George William Marshall, then Rouge Croix Pursuivant of Arms, compiled A handbook to the ancient courts of probate and depositories of wills. I have the copy that George Sherwood bought for 6s 8d and began to annotate and index by county in 1898. It remained the standard reference work until Bethell Bouwens produced his Wills and their whereabouts in 1939.

One might think that in spite of its underground location and restricted hours that all was well in the Literary Department but that was far from the case, many of the later clerks there being quite unsuited to the work. Differing interpretations of the rules found William Henry Benbow Bird (1857-1934), the editor of the Close Rolls, being turned away when Room 9 was half empty because, he was told, the messengers could not be expected to work after 12 a.m. if prior to that time they had done 'all that was required of them' [132]. Herbert Chitty (1863-1949), the Bursar of Winchester College, not having a literary ticket, had been refused a chair to sit on although many were available and he was obliged to stand in a dark corner away from the window, as he said, 'like a naughty boy' [133], though following a petition in 1900 reflectors were installed to improve the light [134]. Herbert Chitty was particularly disgusted at the prohibition on note taking and the need to memorize facts from the wills and then to go outside to write them down [135]. It is said that the antiquary Lord Monson (1796-1862) was fortunately blessed with a peculiarly retentive memory and after reading a will a few times could commit its substance to writing, for the slightest attempt to take notes of its contents would at once have been stopped by the vigilant officials [136].

These petty restrictions on note taking (still technically in force into the 1960s) and the seating problems annoyed a growing number of people. Prominent amongst them was a genealogist, Gerald Fothergill (1870-1926) [137], who later played an important role in the early years of the Society of Genealogists. He lived at Wandsworth and had become a record agent when a teenager at Willesden in 1887 [138]. The son of a prosperous railway signal engineer, Fothergill was a friend of the librarian Henry Robert Plomer (1857-1928) who also lived at Willesden and was well known for his books and articles on the biographies of booksellers and printers, the research on which had taken him regularly to the Literary Department.

As a record agent Fothergill specialised in the English origins of migrants to America, charging $125 for a month's work [139]. Interested in 'Hidden Relationships' he too made regular visits to 'The Literary', where he made indexes to the stray names mentioned in the wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in the years 1660, 1700 and 1770 [140]. Already in the 1890s he was in correspondence with his local Member of Parliament about access to records generally and for thirty years he waged a long war with various authorities about freedom of access.

Gerald Fothergill was particularly active in 1903. In March that year he and Henry Plomer sent out a circular calling a meeting at 30 Little Russell Street to discuss the possible formation of a 'British Records Preservation Society' with the stated aim of abolishing restrictions and fees for the inspection and copying of records and compelling custodians to observe their legal obligations [141]. That proposed society, however, did not get off the ground. Henry Plomer, who had agreed to be the Secretary, withdrew in May because of the very small response that they had received and because his main aim was to reform the Literary Search Department [142].

However, on 30 May 1903 the periodical The Athenaeum published a strongly worded article, 'Somerset House and its management', signed 'Archivist' but written by Henry Plomer, drawing attention to the many grievances of the regular searchers, and in June, Vicary Gibbs (1853-1932), M.P. for St Albans and later editor of The Complete Peerage, followed this up by asking the Secretary to the Treasury, Arthur Elliot (1846-1923), ‘in view of the lack of facilities offered for research in their present situation’ to consider the transfer of the ‘ancient wills which possess only a literary interest’ to the Public Record Office. Gibbs was firmly told that under Section 66 of the Probate Act 1857 legislation would be necessary and that the President of the Probate Division 'does not think that any serious inconvenience is caused to literary searchers by the present arrangements' [143].

The article in The Athenaeum had, however, caused something of a stir, Plomer writing to Fothergill, 'The fat is in the fire at Somerset House with a vengeance'. Everyone suspected Fothergill of having written the article and George Rodman, the superintendent of the room, was particularly indignant at the article's comment that 'one of the two attendants should have been placed on the retired list long ago' and was going about saying that several noted Americans had made presents to him for his attention to them! [144]. The giving of gratuities was another matter of concern that continued throughout the Department's history; at the British Museum, as the Royal Commission reminded a witness, attendants who took gratuities were dismissed [145]. However, mainly as a result of this rumpus, the 'elderly attendant' was retired, the hours were very slightly extended, the seats were allocated more fairly, and the fourteenth seat, about which there had been unseemly squabbles until the President, Sir Francis Jeune, personally intervened, was made permanently available [146].

On 22 April 1905 The Athenaeum published a further letter complaining about the illegible state of many of the probate calendars, which meant that the attendants had to bring down the duplicate volumes from Room 32. There was still no electric light in Room 9 which was lit only from the area, although lighting had been installed in Room 32 which overlooked the Embankment and had good natural lighting. The number of will volumes that might be produced to any searcher on one day was still limited to eight. In 1910 Fothergill organised a petition, worded along the lines of the article, to the President of the Probate Court and although signed by many readers, its only result was to end the annual closure of the room in the summer, though even that took another year to implement. In 1912 the newly formed Society of Genealogists announced that the President of the Probate Division (Sir Samuel Evans) in compliance with the petition had ordered the Literary Research Department to remain open during the Long Vacation (except for ten days for cleaning), from 11 am to 3 pm and from 10 am to 1 pm on Saturdays, and that an attempt would be made to obtain for public use there copies of any printed calendars and lists taken from its records [147].

Public Records

In 1807 a Record Commission had reported that the condition of the country’s national records in their various repositories was a growing scandal, ‘unarranged, undescribed and unascertained … exposed to erasure, alienation and embezzlement … lodged in buildings uncommodious and insecure’, and in 1836 a Select Committee of the House of Commons had proposed that they all be brought together in one repository and in the care of one man. Consequently, in 1838 an Act of Parliament had placed the ‘custody, charge and superintendence’ of the records in the hands of the Master of the Rolls (then Lord Langdale) who was to be assisted by a Deputy Keeper of the Records with a staff of Assistant Record Keepers and other workmen. Until the records could be centralised the various offices were to continue to operate as branches and the Act required the Treasury to fill all the posts in the new office from staff already employed in the branches who might otherwise be entitled to compensation.

The majority of the older ‘public’ records which were derived from the courts of law, the departments of state and the other agencies of central government, were described by Stacey Grimaldi in 1828 and were then either in the Chapter House at Westminster Abbey or in the Tower of London. It was to the keepers of these two repositories that he gave particular acknowledgment in his Preface.

At Westminster Abbey the fine thirteenth-century polygonal Chapter House had in medieval times been the meeting place of the House of Commons but in 1547 the Commons moved to the Chapel of St Stephen in the Palace of Westminster and the Chapter House, its tall windows blocked and with galleries and an upper storey replacing the original vaulting (taken down as ruinous in 1740),was converted into a government record office, mainly for the Exchequer records which included Domesday Book, the medieval tiling being covered with a wooden floor.

In Grimaldi’s time the Keeper there was the antiquary John Caley (died 1834, aged 71). Although Caley drew two salaries as Keeper of the records, he was also secretary to the Record Commission, 1801-31, and responsible for many of the financial and administrative scandals with which it was surrounded. He afterwards received an additional £500 a year to superintend the arranging, repairing and binding of the records, something which, in the words of the Dictionary of National Biography, he did ‘in a most disgraceful manner, the lettering and dates being inaccurate in almost every instance’. His office was ‘dirty and dark’ and as its contents were in the utmost disorder the public were rigidly excluded and he kept the few lists and keys to the records at his house in Exmouth Street, Spa Fields. Applicants for documents had firstly to apply there and the records were then brought up in bags from Westminster by his footman. As the wrong documents were frequently brought, it was said that a search which at the end of the century might take two days without charge, could be prolonged through two weeks, the fees involved depending entirely on Caley’s pleasure [148].

Caley died in April 1834 and the story is told that a few months later, on 16 October 1834, when the Houses of Parliament were destroyed by fire, the wind began to drive the flames towards Westminster Hall and the Chapter House, just across the road. Thousands watching that night saw two figures on the Chapter House roof, surveying the scene: Francis Palgrave (1788-1861) the Keeper of Records and John Ireland (died 1842), the conservative Dean. Before the wind changed, Palgrave suggested that they go down and carry the most valued treasures into the Abbey for safety. Dean Ireland ‘with the caution belonging at once to his office and his character’, as Dean Stanley wrote later, replied that he could not think of doing so without applying to Lord Melbourne, the First Lord of the Treasury, for the Chapter House was Government property! [149]. However, only a few years later the new Public Record Office in Chancery Lane began to receive the Chapter House’s contents. Only then, in 1865, was the building restored to its former glory [150].

The Tower of London had been the main repository for Chancery records throughout the Middle Ages and in the time of Charles II a Record Office was formed from the Chapel of St John the Evangelist and a large neighbouring room under the roof of the White Tower. However, it suffered a long decline and transfers of records were ‘limited and spasmodic’ [151]. The antiquary Samuel Lysons (1763-1819) was appointed Keeper there in 1803 and increased the staff from one to six. Amongst the newcomers were two young nephews of his brother Daniel Lyson’s first wife, Sarah Hardy (died 1808). They were the sons of Major Thomas B. P. Hardy, R.A., who had died in the West Indies in 1814. The eldest, Sir Thomas Duffus Hardy (1804-1878), who commenced work as a junior clerk at the Tower in 1819 and rose to be Deputy Keeper at the new Record Office in succession to Sir Francis Palgrave in 1861, is considered the father of the Historical Manuscripts Commission . His younger brother, Sir William Hardy (1807-1887), came to the Tower in 1823 and also rose to be Deputy Keeper, specialising in peerage claims.

These two boys were trained by Lysons’s successor, another antiquary Henry Petrie (1768-1842), who had a reputation for remitting fees for literary searches [152]. However, in 1828 Grimaldi expressed his best thanks for assistance to John Bayley (died 1869), who had worked there from an early age but, like Caley, was notorious for his exorbitant charges. He was a better scholar than Caley, as evidenced by his History and antiquities of the Tower of London (2 parts, 1821-5), but owing to his long absence from business his office at the Tower was declared vacant in 1834 and he moved to Cheltenham. However, irregular deposits of records continued to be made here until 1842 and for some decades had overflowed into much of the Wakefield Tower, but in 1857 everything was removed to Chancery Lane.

As well as these two major record repositories there were also fifty or so smaller repositories dotted about London. On the Rolls Estate in Chancery Lane, the Rolls Office and its Chapel, which had effectively been occupied by the Master of the Rolls and his predecessors since the thirteenth century, had received from the Tudor period many rolls and records of Chancery and other official records. Other records, removed in 1830 from sheds at the end of Westminster Hall, were sent to the Royal Mews at Charing Cross (demolished to make room for the National Gallery in 1835) and ended up in a large repository in Waterloo Place adapted from the former stables of Carlton House and called ‘Carlton Ride’. Here the testy antiquary and historian Joseph Hunter, formerly a Presbyterian minister and mentioned above for his interest in probate records, was nominally in charge. Yet another large repository, housing the records of the former Secretaries of State from the seventeenth century, was the State Paper Office in Duke Street, Westminster, near St James’s Park, but these papers were placed under the Master of the Rolls in 1855 and the building pulled down in 1862.

Prior to the 1860s, access to the records in these many repositories, as Jane Cox wrote, ‘was restricted in a rather haphazard way; there were as many record keepers as there were repositories, and each guarded his charges jealously. Only the tenacious and the relentlessly inquisitive could get to see them and use them for historical or legal purposes’ [153]. However, following the 1838 Act it was agreed in 1840 that the various offices would be open from ten until four except on Sundays. Searchers were to write their particulars in a day book and were allowed to make pencil extracts or copies from the records. A fee of a shilling was payable for a general search in all the available calendars or indexes and another shilling was charged for each inspection. The fees could be commuted at five shillings a week, provided the search was limited to one family or place, or to a single object of inquiry, but the £1,100 taken in 1842 in fact came mainly from charges for 1,250 office copies. The officers themselves could no longer take fees or gratuities from the searchers or act as record agents other than in discharge of their official duties. It is thought that in 1842 the total number of searchers could not have exceeded twenty a day, the Chancery records at the Rolls Chapel being the most frequently consulted. Lack of adequate indexes resulted in many unnecessary productions. Someone like the industrious and highly critical Nicholas Harris Nicolas, working on his life of Chaucer, might ask for 20 to 50 documents a day [154].

Palgrave had hoped to remit fees to all historical searchers and wrote in 1843 that they came ‘from all professions and various conditions’, not only lawyers but others ‘searching for information for historical purposes, for evidence of title, or for matters connected with arts and manufactures’. Many of the latter were ‘common workmen’ whose searches were prosecuted ‘with great patience, intelligence, and perseverance’. It was perhaps fortunate that there were not more of them for the search room at Carlton Ride was only eleven feet by twelve and had to accommodate two clerks as well as up to five or six searchers at any one time.

At the end of 1843 the various repositories had a total of seventy-eight staff of whom forty-eight were workmen, thirty-six of the latter being at Carlton Ride which had a total of forty-seven staff. There were nine staff at the Rolls Chapel and seven at Rolls House, eleven at the Tower and four at the Chapter House. Entry to the record service, where family relationships (as with the Watsons and Bradleys) were frequent, had long been dependent on patronage and influence but personal jealousies and animosities were rife and continued to be so until the end of the second half of the century in spite of the slow introduction of the new Civil Service examinations and internal requirements which laid stress on a knowledge of French and Latin as well as of palaeography. In addition to their salaries many officers derived considerable incomes from editorial and record agency work. For some years the two Hardy brothers supplemented their income by making transcripts for the historian Francis Palgrave and there was a long-running dispute about their rates of pay. In one altercation in 1832 the excitable and impulsive Thomas Hardy had knocked Palgrave down [155]. When the latter, a strict disciplinarian, was appointed the first Deputy Keeper in 1838 he continued to meet considerable animosity from the staff and other officers and his relationship with the ever-attentive Lord Langdale was sometimes extremely poor. Langdale had wisely concluded that ‘men admirable for antiquarian learning if they have not early learnt to be men of business cannot (at a certain time of life) become such & no business or Office can prosper under their guidance’ [156]. If the Assistant Keepers took time to be equally attentive to the public their output in editorial work (and their income) was naturally decreased. Some of those who acted as record agents then sought to safeguard their income by discrediting the validity of the office copies.

The question of fees for historical research was further argued in 1851 when Palgrave said that the fees charged to lawyers were moderate and equitable but he considered it ‘almost an act of charity to discourage misguided persons, generally in humble circumstances, from pursuing imaginary claims to property or titles because such endeavours frequently led to insanity or beggary’ [157]. However, as the result of a campaign and petition organised by the Camden Society which gained the support of Sir John Romilly, the new Master of the Rolls, it was agreed that year that no fees should be payable by those engaged in making searches prior to 1760 for ‘strictly literary purposes’. Some twelve thousand documents were produced for public inspection in 1861 and the yearly total rose steadily to 52,000 at the end of the century, but then quickly to 95,000 in 1908 when the 1760 limit was moved on to 1800.

The 1838 Act had initially been interpreted to refer only to the records of the administrative, financial and judicial functions of the old Curia Regis or King’s Court - the Chancery, the Exchequer and the courts of common law and equity, together with those of Palatinate and other special jurisdictions - but in 1852 an Order in Council extended its scope to include the records in government departments, some of which at their own discretion were already depositing non-current administrative records. Francis Sheppard Thomas’s pioneering Handbook to the public records, though later described by Walford Selby as ‘heavy as suet pudding, and just as indigestible’, was published in 1853 [158], and followed in 1856 by the more user-friendly general book by Richard Sims mentioned below. It should perhaps be noted that also in 1851 the Registrar General inquired about the need to keep the records of the 1841 and 1851 Census Returns and was told by Palgrave that they were ‘of great national importance and fit to be preserved’ and ‘will hereafter be invaluable for Historical and Legal purposes’. The Registrar General’s main concern at the time was to find the space, not only for the Census but also to store his birth, marriage and death registers, and he hoped that space for them might be found in the proposed new Records repository [159]. Thomas Hardy, who had succeeded Palgrave as Deputy Keeper in 1861, would have taken in assize records and bishops’ transcripts of parish registers, though neither were mentioned in the 1838 Act. That did not stop the Duchy of Lancaster records from being presented by the Queen and acknowledged as a ‘gracious and priceless gift’ [160].

Meanwhile there had been much argument as to the funding and possible location of the proposed new repository which was to provide safe and fireproof custody for an enormous and ever-growing array of material. The House of Commons had agreed back in 1846 that a new office should be built without delay. Some argued that it should be in Westminster, where the records would be more likely to stimulate public interest, but proposals to use the Victoria Tower or the roof space in the new Houses of Parliament, or that Westminster Prison be adapted and extended, found little favour other than with the Treasury, and the Treasury eventually agreed to expenditure on a new building to be sited on the Rolls Estate between Chancery Lane and Fetter Lane.

Work began there in November 1850 and the first, eastern, section of a massive mock-Tudor ‘Public Record Office’, designed by James Pennethorne in iron and stone with slate shelving, was completed in 1858 and became fully operational in 1860, having received its first deposits from the Chapter House, Carlton Ride and the Tower. As precautions against the possibility of fire the building was divided into a large number of separate rooms without central heating. There was no heating either in the old houses requisitioned in Chancery Lane and strengthened to take the records of the Admiralty and War Office.

Following the union of the State Paper Office and Public Record Office, Palgrave argued strongly for the resumption of publication by the PRO, believing that ‘a quiet hour spent by a student at his own desk was worth a day in any public library’, and in 1855 Mrs Mary Anne Everett Green (1818-1895), with the permission of her husband, was appointed the first external editor for work on the domestic state papers, she being paid ten or later eight guineas for each sheet of sixteen pages passed to the printer. From 1873 she was paid £200 a year plus £5 5s per printed sheet and she lived to complete some 41 volumes. Others appointed to do similar work but at different rates included Revd John Sherren Brewer (1810-1879) who was asked in 1856 to prepare a calendar of the vast series of Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII and spent the remainder of his life on the project. Brewer was also involved in the important Rolls Series of ‘Chronicles and Memorials of Great Britain and Ireland during the Middle Ages’ which had been launched by Sir John Romilly in 1858 [161]. The Series firmly established an academic tradition within the PRO but it should be noted that £3,000 was allowed annually for the small number of its part-time editors and a further £1,500 for those calendaring the State Papers, whereas a sum of £3,500 was expected to cover the annual wages of the service’s 55 workmen and seven charwomen [162].

Meanwhile all was far from honey and light for the readers. The original plan had envisaged thirty seats for them but it is doubtful that that number was ever reached, at least in the 1850s, in the separate rooms for literary and legal searchers. They were brought together into one room in 1858 and by 1860 the number of literary searchers was about 150 a year, each making about 15 visits [163]. Walter Rye made his first dispiriting visit to the new Record Office in July 1864 (having been turned away from the British Museum by a change of rule because he was under twenty-one) and in May 1865 found that he was twice unable to get a seat after lunch, because only nine were now provided [164]. A few of the older staff ‘who had been drafted in with the records, formed rather an eccentric group, some of them affecting the dress of an earlier generation’ and Rye remembered ‘a long unpleasant room, with low tables and high backless forms, which cramped the searcher’s legs if he were anything above a dwarf in stature’ [165]. Some of the assistant keepers, notably Joseph Hunter and Henry James Sharpe, undoubtedly saw themselves as a select band of qualified professionals and had little patience with readers such as those working on their pedigrees whom they regarded as mere amateurs, the literary use of the records being in their view entirely subordinate to the legal, but others, who had themselves been record agents possessed a general knowledge of the records which later keepers found hard to acquire [166]. Hunter himself wrote to Palgrave in 1853 about Americans ‘entertaining it is well known extravagant notions of obstructed rights to property and even hereditary honours in England’ and he had a very low opinion of the agents, like the unstable William Henry Hart and the American Horatio Gates Somerby (both mentioned below), who acted for them and might masquerade as literary searchers in order to avoid fees [167]. However, that local and family history, biography and genealogy formed an important part of the work of the literary searchers was revealed in Hardy’s second Report as Deputy Keeper in 1862 with its summary of work undertaken since fees were lifted in 1852 [168]. In those years a total of 1,081 literary searchers had made 13,123 searches and consulted 104,746 documents.

Domesday Book had remained at the Chapter House until brought over to the new repository in July 1859. Shortly afterwards the book’s section on Cornwall was reproduced by the Ordnance Survey at Southampton by Sir Henry James’s new photozincographic process, the copying of the whole book being completed in 1864 when a series of Facsimiles of National Manuscripts was commenced at the suggestion of Prime Minister Gladstone and continued until 1885.

Restrictions on funding meant that the two main public search rooms planned for the eastern end of the building by Pennethorne in the 1850s were not completed until 1869. These rooms remained familiar to searchers for a century: the impressive ‘Round room’ (or Literary Search Room) which rose through the height of the building and was top-lit by a glass roof, and the ‘Long Room’ (or Legal Search Room) facing Fetter Lane. Rye was not the only one to find the Round Room ‘a veritable rheumatism trap in winter’ but search fees, as long desired by Thomas Hardy and John Brewer, were now abolished and a lady recruited to superintend the ladies’ cloakroom. These improvement owed much to Lord Romilly, who had been raised to the peerage in 1865, but accommodation for the records remained critical and in 1877 the large first-floor copying room above the Long Room was converted to receive the rolls of Chancery, it retaining its new name of ‘Rolls Room’ when again converted into another room for searchers in 1961 [169]. A small refreshment room for the staff was opened in the basement in 1867 [170].

Fourteen workmen were on duty to bring documents to the searchers from the 103 record rooms. The latter were fifteen feet high and divided by galleries reached by iron staircases. Each room had two high windows designed to throw light into both divisions and twenty-five feet down the passages between the records. However, by the early afternoon on cloudy or foggy days the work of production, even when aided with lanterns was often extremely difficult if not impossible. There was gas lighting at intervals in the corridors (sufficient, it was said, to play cards by) but none in the small slip-rooms on each floor in which the men were based, numbering, flattening, stamping and packing documents for use. Consequently work in the dark and chilly repository was far from popular. There was, of course, no lighting in the search rooms but the keepers and clerks used oil lamps in the winter as well as candles, though the latter were forbidden in 1876 [171]. The installation of electricity in 1889 was, as Rye said, a vast improvement [172].

The Historical Mauscripts Commission was established in 1869, owing much to the work of Hardy (who was knighted that year) and Romilly, and was given space in Rolls House, its inspectors being paid two guineas a day plus travelling expenses. One of the latter was Alfred Horwood (1821-1881), Hardy’s son-in-law, who was also an active editor. In 1870 the Earl Cawdor placed in the Commission’s care the four volumes of the early eighteenth century Golden Grove Book of (Welsh) Pedigrees and this was passed to the Record Office [173].

In one quarter in 1874 a troublesome individual applied to see 46,360 Treasury papers. There were always critics and one, the combative and litigious John Pym Yeatman (1830-1910), a disappointed barrister, proved particularly unpleasant. Both in his Introduction to the study of early English history (1874) and in a pamphlet An exposure of the mismanagement of the Public Record Office (1875) he criticised the editorial system by which public money was distributed ‘amongst a party of clergymen and ladies who amuse themselves at the Record Office’ and referred to the Oxford school of historians (the followers of Freeman and Stubbs, later despised by Horace Round) as fastening ‘on to the sugar cask of the Record Office like wasps and flies’, deploring the enormous disparity between the small salaries of the workmen and the payments and ‘hereditary corruption’ of the editors, comparing Thomas Hardy in particular to the covetous John Caley and complaining about the general inadequacy of the calendars, the delays in document production and the poor facilities for searchers. In all of which there were, of course, quite large elements of truth. Yeatman’s unpleasant tirade was completely ignored but he then took a request for access to land tax material as far as the Court of Appeal and was firmly told that nobody had a general right of access to records in the PRO, all searches being subject to such rules as the Master of the Rolls might impose [174]. In contrast he had found remarkable ease of access to many records in New York [175]. Yeatman was later a critic of the Victoria County History and although twice declared bankrupt he found time and money to compile a vast Feudal history of the county of Derby (10 vols. 1886-1912) [176].

Another issue which had become increasingly contentious was that of the disposal of documents considered valueless, some already in the PRO but others being passed to it in growing numbers by government departments as if the PRO were an extension of the departments themselves. By an Act of Parliament in 1877 the Master of the Rolls was given new powers to dispose of any such material created after 1715 (a date moved back to 1660 in 1898), but the departments had to make sure that their schedules of papers to be destroyed did not include anything ‘of legal, historical, genealogical or antiquarian use or interest, or which give any important information not to be obtained elsewhere’. Disposal meant destruction unless the Master of the Rolls decided that the documents should be handed to a library. There was little opposition in Parliament but the chapter of the College of Arms had passed a resolution of protest against the Bill’s proposed new powers. The resulting system whereby destruction schedules were first compiled by the departments, examined by a Committee of Inspecting Officers, laid before Parliament, and then put into action by the departments, continued until 1958 when it was considered hopelessly inadequate, the application of the important historical criteria having been left to persons appointed in the departments themselves [177].

Apart from the 1877 Act little of moment had occurred during the last ten years and when Sir Thomas Hardy died in June 1878, his brother William Hardy, though already aged seventy-one, was appointed Deputy Keeper in his place. The latter, ‘a man of lesser energy and talent’ [178], had carried on a lucrative practice as a record agent whilst keeper of the duchy of Lancaster records but had done no work of note there. Yeatman would not have been pleased when Hardy’s young son, William John Hardy (died 1919), already undertaking private work, was found a place at the Record Office in 1879, but he fortunately resigned in 1885 after the Treasury had become concerned. The Master of the Rolls moved from the Rolls House to the new Law Courts in the Strand in 1882 and from that date his authority as head of the PRO began to decline [179].

An officer who had entered the service in 1867 and made a mark assisting the public in the Literary Room was formally recognised as its superintendent in 1882. This was the popular and much respected Walford Daking Selby (1845-1889), a friend of Walter Rye and Horace Round, who with James Greenstreet founded the Pipe Roll Society in 1883 and was editor of The Genealogist from 1884 to 1889. However, Selby shot himself in a bout of depression after being seriously ill with typhoid fever brought on, Edward Walford said, by the insanitary conditions in his room off the Round Room [180]. Many complained of the unlit and draughty search rooms, there was an unpleasant down draught from the dome of the Round Room through which rain occasionally came, and noise from the heavy traffic and black smoke from the printers’ chimneys in Fetter Lane was a growing problem, as indeed was the smell of manure and the yelling of boys from the neighbouring London Parcels Delivery Company on the Office’s north side [181]. Two other assistant keepers who came into prominence at this time were Hubert Hall (1857-1944), of whom below, and Charles Trice Martin (1841-1914) the compiler of the indispensable Record Interpreter (1898, 1910).

The showing of Domesday Book to a party of fourteen girls from a Board School in 1882 did not find favour with William Hardy and some must have wondered why he was knighted in 1883, for his reports (as the Royal Commission in 1912 noted) were ‘meagre and uninteresting’.  He resigned in 1886 [182] and one of those who had earlier complained about the conditions in the search rooms, Henry Maxwell Lyte (1848-1940), was appointed to succeed him. Lyte had no previous experience in the administration of the Office. He was thirty-seven (all the assistant keepers had been in office since before he was born) and the first graduate to enter the PRO’s service, having recently been an inspector for the Historical Manuscripts Commission and written histories of Eton College and of pre-1530 Oxford University. However, he quickly showed considerable administrative ability and, after William Hardy’s laxness, was an autocrat where staff discipline was concerned. His interests included genealogy and his appointment marked a clear watershed in the Office’s development. As Geoffrey Martin said in 1988 he gave it, ‘a character and sense of purpose that lasted into our own time, and is by no means yet a spent force’ [183]. A practical man who wanted to promote the scholarly use of the records Lyte drove forward the work of their classification and arrangement. He had electric lighting installed in the three search rooms in 1889 and later the Office’s first lift next to the Round Room, but his prohibition of the use of ink (in which he was supported by the College of Arms) caused much protest. Amongst the many complainants was a regular visitor, the genealogist and author Theophilus Charles Noble (1840-1890) who in 1886 had published the list of subscribers towards the defence of the country at the time of the Spanish Armada [184]. The Long Room had in 1885-86 become quite crowded with solicitors and those seeking unclaimed money in Chancery and as a result fees for searches in legal documents after 1760 were re-introduced (1s for a legal document and 2s 6d  for a search for a particular suit).

A group from the Library Association was welcomed in 1886 and Lyte was amongst those who organised the celebrations for the Domesday anniversary that year when some 300 visitors came to hear Hubert Hall speak about Domesday Book from the gallery of the Round Room. In 1887 the Office put on an Anglo-Jewish  Historical Exhibition. The old and indigestible PRO Handbook (1853) by Thomas was replaced with a new Guide (3 editions, 1891-1908) by Samuel Robert Scargill-Bird (1847-1923) which remained the standard work until the more user-friendly two volume Guide (1923-24) by Montague Giuseppi who was in charge of the Search Department. By 1892 some forty to fifty people were using the search rooms daily and the number of documents produed had increased to 42,000 annually. However, although the 1888 Local Government Act had created the possibility of a co-ordinated approach to local records, Lyte and the Master of the Rolls, Lord Esher, were strongly opposed to the idea, having enough to deal with in terms of the growing deposit of departmental records and the official searches which had to be made therein.

In 1891 the inspecting officers intervened to save the muster rolls and crew lists of merchant seamen which might otherwise have been destroyed and they joined with the Registrar General in opposing the destruction of the 1851 and 1861 census returns which were then in the Clock Tower of the Houses of Parliament, but lack of space was partly responsible for the destruction in 1897 of the marked-up electoral poll books, 1843-70, in the Lord Chancellor’s Office. The port books for London, 1696-1795, important for economic historians, were also destroyed as a result of the schedules agreed in 1896 and 1899 [185]. However, it was the Board of Trade in 1900 which irregularly ordered the destruction of the outward and many of the inward passenger lists prior to 1890 and was soundly rebuked by the Master of the Rolls in 1917 for doing so [186].

The old Rolls Series was abandoned after the publication of Hubert Hall’s controversial edition of The red book of the Exchequer (3 vols. 1896-97) and the Office’s publishing resources were concentrated on improving the finding aids, commencing in 1891 with calendars of the patent rolls, followed by the close rolls (with an external editor) in 1892, the inquisitions post mortem (edited by a skilled genealogist Anthony St John Story-Maskelyne) in 1898, and other major series. By 1899 some 72 calendars had appeared. To complement these a new series of ‘Lists and Indexes’, designed mainly to assist those in the search rooms, was initiated with an index of ancient petitions in 1892 [187].

The PRO staff remained almost totally a male preserve, the only women being the part-time cleaners and the ladies’ attendant, though the editor Mrs Green had been succeeded by her niece, Mrs Sophia Crawford Lomas (died 1929). By 1900 a typewriter was being used for outgoing correspondence, other typing being sent to the Civil Service Commission. Of the searchers, however, many more (as discussed below) were now women and the US Government Despatch Agency and the Canadian record authorities employed a number of women in London for work on the American Loyalists’ and other papers [188].

Maxwell Lyte’s interest in the PRO’s publications and its staffing was coupled with a desire to increase the office accommodation and preparations went ahead to demolish the twenty rickety eighteenth century houses which surrounded Rolls Yard at the west end of the Rolls Estate and fronted Chancery Lane. They were used for storage and offices but two had resident staff; all were fire risks, access often needing candles or a lamp. After protracted negotiations the houses were demolished in 1891, some 124 van-loads of records being temporarily moved to the late Barge Dock at Somerset House, and the block now facing Chancery Lane with a tower over its gateway was built in 1892-95. The new offices had electric lighting and were a vast improvement and Maxwell Lyte was knighted at the Jubilee in 1897. However, the proposed destruction of the old Rolls Chapel and the Rolls House which now stood between the new block and the original Pennethorne block raised considerable opposition and did not take place until 1899-1900 when the latter block was extended westward and the Rolls Chapel replaced by a museum with a wide variety of records in a permanent display that incorporated the Chapel’s monuments. Twenty-seven large sacks of documents were found above the Chapel’s vaulting [189].

Power to present unwanted or duplicate material to other repositories had been given in the 1877 Act but it was not until 1890 that rules for the administration of the Act were drawn up whereby such material might be presented to libraries in Great Britain or Ireland. By an Order of Council in 1908 certain colonial office documents could also be transferred to those colonial governments interested in their contents. By 1912 only eight such transfers had taken place and the Royal Commission that year thought that much more could have been done ‘with advantage to local students’. However, the PRO’s policy remained largely unchanged until the Act in 1958 [190].

The genealogist George Sherwood, commenting on the Deputy Keeper’s Annual Report in 1909, paid tribute to the courtesy of the staff but worried about these new powers to transmit records to the relevant colonies and the ‘weeding-out’ of unwanted material which he thought should be roughly sorted and dispersed to the free libraries around the country. He believed that all public records over a hundred years old should be transferred to the Office but he noted that the handling of records there was ‘tending to become a less dusty affair altogether [191].

Many State Papers had remained in private hands and in the eighteenth century large collections of these had found their way into the British Museum. Here, as at the Public Record Office, admission was obtained by making written application, ‘stating the name, rank in life, and residence of the applicant’, and the request had to be accompanied by a recommendation from some gentleman ‘whose position in society, reputation, or public appointment, may serve as a guarantee of the respectability of the applicant’. When Richard Sims wrote this in 1856 the wonderful new Reading Room was springing up ‘as if by magic’ in the Museum’s quadrangle and the great Antonio Panizzi (1797-1879), who had designed it to seat 500 readers, was the Principal Librarian. When, in the 1870s, the young Kate Norgate (1853-1935), the daughter of a Norwich bookseller, was inspired by John Richard Green’s Short History of the English People (1874) to try her hand at writing history, her mother is said to have accompanied her to the British Museum to chaperon and sit by her in the Reading Room [192].


In the nineteenth century genealogists came together only through the pages of the many periodicals that flourished and it was through them, Horace Round thought, that John Gough Nichols (1806-1873) first founded the modern critical and historical school of genealogy [193].

John Gough Nichols’s interests and influences stemmed directly from his grandfather John Nichols (1745-1826) the industrious proprietor and editor of the Gentleman’s Magazine and the author or editor of some sixty biographical, literary and historical works, including a noted History and antiquities of the county of Leicester (4 vols. 1795-1815). John Nichols’s son, John Bowyer Nichols (1779-1863), continued his father’s work and published practically all the great county histories of his day including Lipscomb’s Buckinghamshire, Ormerod’s Cheshire, Surtees’ Durham, Raine’s North Durham, Clutterbuck’s Hertfordshire, Baker’s Northamptonshire, Hoare’s Wiltshire, Hunter’s South Yorkshire and Whitaker’s Whalley and Craven.

John Gough Nichols (1806-1873), the son of John Bowyer Nichols, had followed his grandfather as joint editor of the Gentleman’s Magazine and was sole editor 1851-56, contributing as his grandfather had done many papers on genealogical and heraldic topics and adding the detailed obituary notices. George Sherwood later wrote that this and other popular magazines of the period were to be found on the tables of every coffee room and club and that the ‘victualing’ fraternity was strongly represented in their pages [194]. In 1834 J. G. Nichols branched out to edit and publish a separate periodical, at £1 per indexed volume, Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica (8 vols. 1834-43), containing documentary material and some pedigrees. After a short break he continued with a similar The Topographer and Genealogist (3 vols. 1846-58) and then, when the Gentleman’s Magazine stopped publishing antiquarian material, he produced The Herald and Genealogist (8 vols. 1863-74), again on similar lines but containing also book reviews and critical essays. The Hertfordshire historian John Edwin Cussans described the influential Nichols (whose quotation for the printing of his history he had rejected as ‘absurdly extravagant’) ‘as narrow minded as he was strong, and as vindictive as he was bigoted, he was feared by some, hated by others, and respected by none … the very embodiment, the acme, the apotheosis of meanness, in great and little matters alike’ [195].

In 1866, Dr Joseph Jackson Howard (1827-1902), of Mayfield, Blackheath, who had worked in the Postmaster General’s Department and was a pioneer of the Civil Service Co-operative Stores, founding the Civil Service Supply Association, started a quarterly journal, Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica, which was very similar in content to John Gough Nichols’s first two periodicals but slightly larger in format, with many nicely printed pedigrees and heraldic engravings, in the quality of which he was particularly interested. It was two shillings and sixpence an issue and so successful that, after the demise of The Herald and Genealogist and adding occasional critical articles and reviews, he produced it for a shilling and then in a New Series for six pence. His journal, affectionately known as ‘Misc Gen’ and edited by him until his death in 1902 [196], reverted to quarterly publication in 1894 and continued until 1938.

Between 1887 and 1895 Joseph Howard had also printed six large and fully annotated pedigrees illustrating the History of Roman Catholic Families in England, but he is perhaps better known for his collaboration with the wealthy genealogical enthusiast Frederick Arthur Crisp (1851-1922) and the latter’s private printing press, the Grove Park Press, in a beautifully produced series of twenty-one volumes of tabular pedigrees, A Visitation of England and Wales (1893-1921) with fourteen additional volumes of Notes, and A Visitation of Ireland in six further volumes (1897-1918).

Also following the demise of The Herald and Genealogist in 1874, George William Marshal started in 1877 another very similar periodical, The Genealogist, which also survived the First World War and continued production until 1922, receiving important critical contributions from Horace Round and the best genealogists of the time. These periodicals together set high standards in the pedigrees published which, largely because of economic reasons, have not been seen again in English genealogical periodicals though the tradition continues in the United States of America.

Yet another periodical, Collectanea Genealogica et Heraldica, was started in 1881 by the hard-working genealogist and transcriber Joseph Foster (1844-1905), the son of a woollen draper at Bishop Wearmouth and the grandson of the founder of a large London bottling firm, M. B. Foster & Sons, who was also interested in genealogy. His periodical (128 pages monthly for three guineas a year) was intended to provide ‘handy working indices for the genealogist’ and he began to print annotated instalments of indexes to the marriages in the Gentleman’s Magazine, to Musgrave’s Obituary and to other works, as well as providing with the help of Horace Round, as the Dictionary of National Biography says, ‘much trenchant criticism and exposure of current genealogical myths’. Unfortunately, although enthusiastically reviewed his work received little public support and with the labour involved in this and his other projects the periodical became irregular and ceased publication in 1888, many of the projected indexes sadly not being completed.

Joseph Foster, in collaboration with Edward Bellasis (1852-1922), Bluemantle and then Lancaster Herald, had in 1879 produced a remarkable Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, aiming at a greater level of accuracy than achieved by Burke, and they completed four extremely fine editions to 1883, the work being subsequently amalgamated with Lodge’s Peerage which George Burnett had considered ‘the best and most trustworthy’ of the older peerages [197]. Foster’s Peerage, which the Morning Post described as ‘a virtual impeachment of other authorities’, was noteworthy for its stringent attitude to those who had assumed baronetcies (who were mercilessly relegated to a section boldly called ‘Chaos’) and for its lively heraldic designs by John Forbes Nixon and Dom Anselm Baker of Mount Saint Bernard Abbey. Anthony Wagner thought that Foster ‘deserved more credit than he has had for his industry and his concern to get at the truth’ [198]. He had projected a series of Pedigrees of the County Families of England but only saw those for Lancashire (1873) and Yorkshire (3 vols. 1874) in print. He had transcribed with ‘heroic labour’, as the Dictionary of National Biography says, the registers of admissions to the various Inns of Court and the Clergy Institution Books 1556-1838, and he had edited for publication Joseph Chester’s copy of the matriculation registers of Oxford University 1500-1886 and the latter’s extensive extracts of London marriage licences 1521-1869.

In April 1897 the Morning Post announced the forthcoming appearance in May of a monthly journal priced at a shilling and edited by the controversial Arthur Fox-Davies (mentioned below) for the publisher Elliot Stock: The Genealogical Magazine: a journal of family history, heraldry and pedigrees [199]. The Derby Mercury said that it attempted, ‘to combine interesting family histories with the accurate and detailed evidences which are the real value of genealogical writers’ [200], having lengthy contemporary extracts from the London Gazette. The first issue even contained one article by Fox-Davies’ later adversary Horace Round. It completed eight volumes, but closed in 1904 after a series of controversial articles on corporate heraldry that moved Round to fierce ridicule [201].

The short-lived quarterly The Ancestor, published in twelve lordly volumes 1902-5, had the sub-title A quarterly review of county and family history, heraldry and antiquities and for a while it eclipsed all the others in production, illustration and content, each issue having 300 pages and being cloth-bound for five shillings. It had the wealthy genealogist Herbert ‘Arthur’ Doubleday (1867-1941) as its printer and Arthur ‘Oswald’ Barron (1868-1939), the Evening News journalist and medieval scholar, as its editor, but was discontinued in 1905 when Doubleday left the printing firm, Archibald Constable & Co, which he had helped to create. Doubleday was then enlisted by G. L. (later Sir Laurence) Gomme, clerk to the London County Council, who had conceived as a memorial to Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee the idea of the Victoria History of the Counties of England, and was its chief editor for the first ten volumes, 1901-3, when he was succeeded by his joint-editor, William Page (died 1934), who carried it forward in the face of great difficulties for the next thirty years. Doubleday, having founded the St Catherine Press in 1908, then played a major role in the fund-raising and production of the new edition of The Complete Peerage initially edited by Vicary Gibbs (1853-1932) and printed and published by the Press, Doubleday becoming its assistant editor in 1916 and editor from 1920 until his death in 1941.


Whilst paying tribute to the editors of the various periodicals in the development of critical genealogy, Round had drawn particular attention to the Shropshire antiquary Robert William Eyton (1815-1881) and to the retired Major-General the Hon. George Wrottesley (1827-1909) for their contributions to the field. Eyton’s work for his Antiquities of Shropshire (1853-61) had a particular appeal to Round ‘in its single-minded concentration – in a style some found repulsively dry – on the genealogies, properties, and public lives of the feudal landowners’ between 1066 and 1327. Sir William Hardy, Deputy Keeper, thought his work placed Eyton far ahead of ‘all our County Historians ancient or modern’ and the Dictionary of National Biography says that ‘his memoirs of the families of Le Strange, Mortimer, and De Lacy, in which nothing is admitted without strict proof, placed him at the head of contemporary genealogists’. His other works, partly in conjunction with Wrottesley, all related to the same early period [202]. The pair founded the William Salt Society in 1879 and Wrottesley as Secretary of that Society contributed vastly to its thirty-four volumes of Staffordshire Collections. Round thought Wrottesley’s critical sense more developed than that of Eyton in that he placed truth foremost and the Dictionary of National Biography says of his four published family histories (Giffard, Wrottesley, Okeover and Bagot) that they ‘had, too, that other virtue of the new school, the power of tacking on public history to private events in such a way as to give to the narration its reality and significance’. His invaluable abstracts of Pedigrees from the Plea Rolls, 1200-1500 (1906) were laboriously extracted at the Record Office between 1880 and 1904 [203]. Round called Major-General Wrottesley the ‘Nestor of genealogists’, presumably meaning, as the Oxford Classical Dictionary says of Nestor in the Iliad, that he was ‘fond of long narratives of his early successes in war’ but perhaps also ‘full of advice generally either platitudinous or unsuccessful’!

When William Page wrote in 1930 of Horace Round’s contributions to the new critical school of genealogy, he recalled the situation in the late 1870s and 1880s when Round first began to use the Public Record Office regularly [204]. Page said that in the 1880s the searchers in the Literary Search or Round Room at the Public Record Office were mainly genealogists, the regular visitors including George Wrottesley, James Greenstreet and John Vincent. Those historians with wider interest made only occasional visits.

James Harris Greenstreet (1846-1891) was born in Brixton the son of a traveller in the wine trade and started life as a clerk in an insurance office but by 1881 when living at Camberwell was describing himself as a record agent. In 1883 he helped Walford Selby to form the Pipe Roll Society. In 1888 at Catford he was recommended by Walter Rye and by 1891 when at Lewisham was a literary agent. He wrote a number of articles for Archaeologia Cantiana, was editor of the The Lincolnshire Survey (1884) and author of Memorials of the ancient Kent family of Greenstreet (1891). He did not marry until 1887 and had no children. At his early death in 1891 he left only £290.

John Amyatt Chaundy Vincent (1826-1905) was born at Barrackpore in Bengal, the son of a Lieutenant-Colonel in the East India Company Service who died at Bath in 1865 with an estate ‘Under £200’. Lodging with working families in Bloomsbury, John Vincent published Notes on the Elton Family in 1861 but was described as an architect and fundholder in the 1861 census, an annuitant in 1871, an antiquary in 1881, an historical antiquary in 1891, and a record searcher on his own account in 1901. With an office at 61 Lincoln’s Inn Fields he was listed as one of the best-known record agents by Walter Rye in 1897. At his death in 1905 his effects were valued at £366-10-5. His diaries from 1861 to 1871 are in Wigan Archives and show a later focus on genealogy and from 1873 he was transcribing deeds at the Public Record Office.

The record agents who had taken over the work of officials who in earlier times had prepared the evidence for legal cases, were found next door in the Legal Search or Long Room. Amongst this group William Page mentions Stuart Archibald Moore (1842-1907), formerly the secretary to Sir Thomas Duffus Hardy, who acted as a record agent. He was also a proficient yachtsman and rather late in life was called to the bar and gained distinction as an authority on the law relating to fisheries and the foreshore. He was highly successful in promoting claims against the crown by the lords of those manors bounded by the sea, writing the standard History of the Foreshore (1888).

Moore’s partner, Richard Edward Gent Kirk (1844-1908), had earlier been an assistant to Revd John Sherren Brewer in his work on the letters and papers of Henry VIII. Richard Kirk had been born in the Tower of London where his father, also called Richard Kirk (died 1866), had been a messenger in the Record Office at least since his marriage in 1842. Richard Kirk and his wife Sarah (nee Gent) were given the place and house of caretaker at the Office in March 1843 but four years later ‘Mrs Kirk was discovered using Lucifer matches to light the office fires in contravention of strict orders’. She resigned in order to avoid dismissal but he continued as a Messenger, living in Islington. Their son Richard E. G. Kirk was also a Messenger in the Record Office, aged 17 in 1861, but later worked as a record agent on his own account with an office at 27 Chancery Lane, being recommended by Walter Rye in 1888 and 1897. He and his son, Ernest Frederick Kirk (c.1880-1956), also a record agent, edited the four volumes of Returns of Aliens in … London, 1523-1625 (1900-8) for the Huguenot Society. He was an early member of the Society of Genealogists and as an agent was still supporting his disgraced grandmother, aged 90, at Upper Tooting in 1911, but he had resigned his membership of the Society by 1919.

Two other record agents mentioned by Page and recommended by Walter Rye were the solicitors Henry Gay Hewlett (1832-1897), keeper of the Land Revenue Records, who undertook searches for the Crown, and his son Maurice Henry Hewlett (1861-1923) who practised at 2 Raymond Buildings in partnership with his cousin, William Oxenham Hewlett (1845-1912), the author of a work on Scottish peerage law and an editor for the Historical Manuscripts Commission who also transcribed the early parish registers of Harrow, and was later a master in chancery. Maurice Henry Hewlett succeeded his father as Keeper of Land Revenue Records but quickly abandoned record searching to become a poet and essayist, best known perhaps for his The Song of the Plow. His resignation in 1901 was followed by the absorbtion of his Land Revenue work and its records into the Public Record Office [205].

William Page (1861-1934) was himself the son of a merchant and had been articled to a civil engineer before taking up a post in Australia, but he returned to England in 1884 to find that his eldest sister Margaret was ‘going with’ the above-named record agent and antiquary William John Hardy after his brief time at the PRO. Page joined him as a record agent and, when Hardy married in 1886 they went into partnership as Hardy & Page with an office in Lincoln’s Inn. Walter Rye thought them (with the Hewletts and William Phillimore) ‘as au fait at fighting a “record” case as getting the material together’ [206]. The range of inquiry received by the partners was almost unlimited, Page developed an expert knowledge of the records and the partners received much commissioned work, including calendaring and editing from the Historical Manuscripts Commission and various record societies. Page was drawn into the work of the Victoria County History by Horace Round and in 1902 was appointed its general editor, withdrawing from the partnership, but Hardy continued as a record agent until his death in 1919. He and his son, Colonel William Le Hardy, appointed in 1946 the first County Archivist for Hertfordshire, dominated research and publishing in the county for many years [207].

Plantagenet Harrison

Genealogy and the Public Record Office have always attracted a share of eccentrics and the other searchers who favoured the Long Room in the 1880s, according to Page, included ‘two strange Welsh gentlemen who periodically retired to worship on the Welsh mountains and returned in unsavoury sheepskins’ [208]. They may be the ‘unsavoury and unclean persons’ about whom there had been complaints in 1881 when a hall porter was recruited to control admittance to the search rooms [209].

However, the chief of the eccentrics was undoubtedly General Plantagenet Harrison (1817-1890) of the Peruvian Army, ‘a giant, wearing a cowboy hat’. This extraordinary man, who claimed ‘against many impediments’ to be Earl of Lancaster, was called the ‘prince of genealogical cranks’ by Aleyn Lyell Reade (the authority on Samuel Johnson) who had heard all about him from his correspondent William Paley Baildon (1859-1924) in London [210] and he was described by Walter Rye as ‘a pedigree forger of the worst and most unscrupulous type’ [211].

Plantagenet Harrison later often used the name James Phillippe but he was born at Whashton and baptised George Henry Harrison at Kirby Ravensworth in Yorkshire, one of several children of Marley Harrison (died 1822) and Margaret his wife, nee Hutchinson. Harrison had taken an early interest in his ancestry and in November 1843 whilst in the Mexican province of Yucatan as a ‘General officer’, had assumed the names ‘De Strabolgie Neville Plantagenet’ claiming to be the direct representative of those families and descended from Elizabeth the sister of Henry IV. He claimed the descent through Margaret a daughter of Charles (Nevill), 6th Earl of Westmoreland (died 1584), who married Sir Nicholas Pudsey, [212] but George Frederick Beltz in his Memorials of the Most Noble Order of the Garter (1841) had already noted that Margaret and Nicholas did not appear to have had children [213].The descent was considered at some length and rejected by the Marquis de Ruvigny in his Plantagenet Roll of the Blood Royal (1905-11) [214] and noted by The Complete Peerage (1959) with the same conclusion [215]. Harrison almost certainly had no such descent, but in 1858 he petitioned the House of Lords for a summons to the House of Lords as Duke of Lancaster and published a Petition to the House of Lords touching the Duchy of Lancaster and the Forfeited Estates (1858) which was completely ignored. He told the Court of Bankruptcy that year that he was ‘de jure sovereign of these realms, but the Act of Settlement barred his claim’. The fact that he had an elder brother, Francis Harrison (1811-1894), a solicitor in Gray’s Inn and later at Great Sampford in Essex and Bristol who survived him, he dismissed with a comment to Paley Baildon that ‘he was a damned fool!’ [216]. Sadly his published pedigrees often show as little regard for the facts.

Harrison, who had never been in the British army, travelled extensively in South and North America, sometimes with local military appointments amongst the groups of wild gaucho horsemen, but apparently often relying on gambling, plunder and fraud for his income, taking his chances in the unrest of the times. In that he was assisted by his unusual height, a uniform heavy with gold braid and his display of the adopted Orders of the Garter and of St George. He was by his own highly coloured and exaggerated account with Abd-el-Kader against the French in Algeria and with Emir Becker in Syria before going to Yucatan and fighting against the Mexican Federal Government in 1843 as General of Brigade. In Guatemala in 1844 he fought against the Indians before going to Peru, where in July 1844 he helped to defend Lima. Later that year he was in Uruguay and, entering Corrientes, was in January 1845 made Grand Marshall of the Army of Liberty in the Argentine Republic. As a delegate from Corrientes to Brazil he was expelled and went from there in June 1846 to the Domincan Republic, was again expelled and went to Venezuela, but was again expelled and after trying to persuade Hayti to invade Dominica in November, he returned to England. That, at least, is the outline of an account he gave in his pedigree published about 1848-50 but little of the detail can be taken seriously [217].

In London in July 1847 he carried out a vicious attack on Major Richard Leslie Dundas (a friend of William Downing Bruce the genealogist mentioned below) who brought an action for assault in the Queen’s Bench in February 1848 which resulted in Harrison being sentenced to imprisonment for six months, but he jumped bail and went abroad; he was then ‘stated to hold the rank of Brigadier-General in the Mexican army’ [218]. In February 1849 the Morning Post, describing him as General of Cavalry, said that he had arrived on the French frontier on route for Madrid [219] and in May 1849 the London Daily News recounted his frauds there [220], but later that month published a letter from him at Gibraltar denying the account and saying that he had been in Denmark in July 1848 with the Danish Cavalry. He said then that as Prince of Plantagenet he had a ‘lineage more illustrious than that of any other prince in Christendom’ [221] but he was later obliged to admit that he held no formal commission in the Danish army [222]. According to later accounts he was imprisoned in Gibraltar for ten months for debt [223] and in April 1850 the newspapers were saying that the walls of Gibraltar were covered with placards in which he challenged to fight in single combat three Spanish generals and the English consul at Cadiz, but ‘in such gross and insulting language that we refrain from publishing it’ [224].

Back in London in 1850 he was apparently excluded from the Library at the British Museum by Sir Henry Ellis because he applied as ‘Duke of Lancaster’ [225] but in February 1851 it was reported from Berlin that he had been brought prisoner there for alleged frauds at Stralsund in 1848, having been arrested near Altona [226]. Whatever the truth of this he was certainly arrested in London on 24 December 1851 and returned to the Queen’s Bench Prison to serve his original term, though he immediately unsuccessfully petitioned for discharge [227].

Following his release he was imprisoned as an insolvent debtor, July-September 1852, following a fraud with guns bought in August 1847 and pawned the next day. In court he recounted his early travels in America and Europe but he was now ‘of no employ or occupation’. His only assets were £3,000 said to be owed to him as ambassador to Brazil from the Republic of Corrientes. He claimed to have been appointed a Lieutenant-General in the army of the Germanic Confederation by Archduke John but only ‘in time of war’ and he attributed his present insolvency to the peaceful state of Europe. He had received about £2,000 in military pay in the years 1843-4 and had after 1847 received about £1,200 from friends, winning at play another £1,300. It was ordered that he be discharged after he had been in custody at the suit of any of the creditors for three months, and at the suit of one of them for eight months from the vesting order [228].

In September 1853 it was reported that Harrison was at Constantinople offering his services to the Turks [229] and in May 1854 (just after the Crimean War had broken out) he denied from London any knowledge of conspiracies against Turkey [230]. At Hull in June 1855, having been apprehended on board a steamer at Grimsby about to depart for Hamburg, he was unsuccessfully charged with defrauding three banks. Described as ‘a fashionably-dressed, moustachioed and bearded Englishman’, his luggage and uniform were said to be ‘worth nearly £2,000’ [231]. He told the local newspaper that he was ‘entitled to seven millions of money, left to him, which he will shortly receive’ [232].

In November 1857 he was arrested for debt whilst at Marylebone Police Court on another matter and although surrounded by many people whom he had cheated he, being a crown witness, was discharged [233]. In February 1858 he was charged with assaulting two waiters at the Hotel de Paris, Haymarket, and fined 20s. On this occasion the money was paid [234]. In July 1858, in a case of property fraud, Meek v. Carter, he was described as ‘a mere adventurer’ [235].

In October-December 1858 he was again before the Insolvent Debtors’ Court ‘late a General Officer, now out of employment’, in prison and asking to be discharged. He claimed that his insolvency was due to the British Ambassador at Constantinople and Lord Palmerston on behalf of the Government not allowing him to serve in the Turkish army after his offer of service had been accepted by the Sultan and to his subsequent  losses and imprisonment by the Prussian government. He had debts of £8,075 (for furniture, wine, fishing tackle, rent of a house for three servants, etc) of which £3,833 was without consideration. He said that his pay in the South American army had been plunder, his share being £150,000 in cattle, horses, etc. Counsel for the complainants said that after two previous insolvencies and a bankruptcy the incurring of debts without expectation of payment was fraud. The case was adjourned to complete further services upon his creditors. The lengthy notice in the London Gazette said that prior to being at Stralsund he had had offices in the Levant House, London, endeavouring to establish  a mercantile and banking house in the name Skioldunger, Harrison & Company. He had later been a genealogist at 14 Clement’s Inn and among the items on his balance sheet was, ‘Received for making out Mr Wright’s pedigree 10 bonds of £1,000 each, the loss by sale of which was £9,750’ [236].

In August and September 1859 he placed a succession of advertisements in the Morning Post for a work The Golden Book of Westminster which he said would be ‘a correct history of the lineage of the various dynasties of the sovereigns of England, Scotland, &c, and of the ancient and modern nobility and gentry, with a description of the personal appearance of the present representative thereof, with his (the General’s) opinion as to the probability of each individual being descended of the blood he professes to represent. Also, a list of all gentlemen of blood entitled to bear coat armour, together with a list of such individuals as profess to be gentlemen, and who bear coat armour without being entitled thereto’, adding ‘Pedigrees compiled and published’ [237]. The book, which seems to have been an exercise in mass blackmail, did not appear.

In 1861 as ‘George Henry Harrison’ he was staying at the Great Western Hotel, Paddington, unmarried, aged 43, ‘gentleman’, but he apparently married shortly thereafter and by a wife Maria had a daughter Blanche Plantagenet Harrison who was born in April 1863 and baptised at St Pancras in July 1864. In April 1862 he had placed an advertisement in the Morning Post saying that he was ‘in want of a friend who will assist him to obtain justice’ [238] and in December that year had placed another advertisement there saying that he wanted someone to lend him £1,000 ‘for a special purpose’ and required ‘the services of two or three young men, of good blood who are ambitious of military glory’ [239]. The date and place of his marriage has not been found [240].

After apparently living for a while in some style in Kensington Gardens Square, Harrison was on 25 October 1861 again in prison for debt and was again adjudged bankrupt (in forma pauperis) when the extravagant style and title of the ‘pauper’ that appeared in the formal description caused some amusement [241]. He made several unsuccessful applications for discharge but seems to have remained in the Queen’s Bench Prison until 1 January 1863 when he benefited from a change in the law and was discharged. He then told the usher that he was a candidate for the throne of Greece! [242] It is not surprising that in February 1863 at a meeting of the Exeter Branch of the Trade Protection Society he was described as ‘one of the most extraordinary cheats London ever produced’ [243].

Harrison became a professional genealogist about 1862-3 and was at Bedford Row from about 1865 his principal business being to trace pedigrees which, as he said, was more profitable than translating records, the pay depending on the difficulty in tracing them [244]. He sometimes used the name ‘James Phillippe’ … ‘my grandmother being the heiress of the Phillippes’. However, in October 1867, trading as a genealogist and herald, he was again bankrupt with debts of £265 [245]. In January 1868 he was said to have assets of £262 10s, being owed that amount by Mr Piggott, of The Green, Richmond, for searching for his pedigree. Having insulted a witness, the discharge was adjourned for two months [246]. In June 1869 he took a successful action for libel against the Cornhill Magazine for a story about his time in Spain in which he was described as a ‘notorious swindler’ [247]. He said then that he had been a genealogist for six or seven years, was a linguist and antiquary, and was in attendance daily at the Record Office. Thomas Duffus Hardy, Deputy Keeper, said that he had known Harrison since 1863 and believed him sincere but eccentric; if Harrison were a swindler he would not be permitted to continue visiting the Office. Although the story seems to have had a factual basis, Harrison was awarded £50 damages and he was accordingly allowed to continue his work at the Record Office [248].

In the 1871 census George Harrison appears at 24 Hunter Street, St Pancras, as George Eley, aged 53, translator of records, born at Gilling, Yorkshire, with his wife Maria, aged 36, and daughter Blanche, aged 7 [249]. Eley or, more frequently Eeley, appears to have been his wife’s maiden name [250]. However, on 9 September 1871, styling himself ‘Mr James Phillippe, of 48, Bedford Row, London’, Harrison placed an advertisement in The Field newspaper which was copied and ridiculed for its self-confidence and effrontery in The Herald and Genealogist under the heading ‘A Radical Reformer in Genealogy’ [251]. Mr Phillippe had satisfied himself, he wrote, ‘that nearly the whole of the pedigrees hitherto pulished are fictitious’. The Visitation pedigrees were all ‘either fictitious inventions or the erroneous result of tradition’. The genealogical manuscripts in the British Museum were ‘simply trash’. Pedigrees could only be compiled from the Common Plea Rolls and having studied them for many years ‘he confidently states that he is the only man who ever lived competent to give a true account of all families of English extraction’. The advertisement concluded, ‘Fictitious pedigrees and family histories examined and reported upon’. An appended note attacked the registering and granting of Arms by the College of Arms saying that it ‘is wonderful that any persons should be such addle-headed donkeys as to entertain any such humbug’. Readers of The Field may not have known what he was talking about but some may have been attracted by his offer of ‘genuine pedigrees, properly vouched, at half the price at which spurious pedigees are obtained elsewhere’. Wrottesley did not start his work on the Plea Rolls until 1880 and had begun by taking only the Staffordshire entries and so there was little or no over-lap.

Harrison had for some years been planning a six-volume history of Yorkshire which was to include everything of value that he could find in his favoured Plea Rolls and in a series of notices in the York Herald early in 1873 in the name James Phillippe, he drew attention to the first volume of his forthcoming History of the North Riding of the County of York [252]. When the first volume actually appeared in 1879 its coverage was limited to the Wapentake of Gilling West near Richmond. Reviewers of the ‘ponderous tome’ were not impressed. It was prefaced with a copy of the portrait taken in Lima in 1844 and an account of his family in the male line from ‘Odin, King of Ascardia about seventy-six years before the birth of Christ’ who was said to be forty-first in descent from Eric, King of the Goths in the time of Abraham’s great-grandfather. The pedigree’s heading boasted, ‘This pedigree represents the concentrated glory of a world’. Aleyn Lyell Reade thought it ‘a supreme example of fantastic genealogy’ [253]. The history, which cost fifteen guineas, is said to have sold less than twenty copies [254] and no further volumes were produced.

Also in 1873, presumably in an attempt to gain publicity for his services, Harrison presented a quite bogus pedigree of George Washington’s family to President Ulysses S. Grant of America. According to Colonel Chester who had long known Harrison in London, the pedigree had been concocted by him as a catchpenny concern for the publisher John Camden Hotten who had died that year. The identity of Washington’s emigrant ancestor was not then known with certainty and Chester had shown the pedigree’s falsity in 1866 but the unpleasant Albert Welles in New York now published it in all its bogus glory, linking the first American president to the god Odin, the founder of Scandinavia, who, of course, was also Harrison’s first claimed ancestor. Chester wrote to a friend, ‘Of course you would not find any proofs of his statements. This distinguished ‘genealogist’ never furnishes any’ [255].

In July 1876 Harrison published a facsimile and translation of the Middlesex section of Domesday book which a review in The Graphic said had been executed ‘with the utmost care’ [256]. However, the following year he encouraged Henry De Burgh-Lawson to assume a baronetcy formerly held in a branch of his family which had been extinct since 1834 and authorised him to publish a letter in which he said that he was ‘answerable for the integrity of your pedigree’ [257]. However, in 1881 Joseph Foster consigned the claim to a section of his Baronetage entitled ‘Chaos’ as having no prima facie evidence and the family was not later entered on the Official Roll. In February 1878 Harrison was successfully sued in the Court of Queen’s Bench for the balance of the cost of a gold watch for which he had paid only £5 of the £75 asked [258].

Although supported by Duffus Hardy at the trial in 1869, Harrison had a difficult relationship with some at the Public Record Office and in 1875 his complaint that Alexander Ewald, the senior clerk, had that year written and published a highly popular two volume Life and times of Prince Charles Stuart, partly in official time, led to Ewald's official censure. The previous year Harrison had also accused a versatile and respected transcriber and superintendent of the workmen, Albert T. Watson, who in 1881 lived in Rolls Yard, of taking documents (a list of emigrants to America) out of the office for indexing, a charge that Watson was able to rebut [259].

In 1881 Harrison, his wife and daughter, were at 93 Highgate Road, St Pancras, he describing himself merely as ‘George Harrison, genealogist’. In 1883-8 he rented a garrett room on the fourth floor at 10 New Court, Lincoln’s Inn [260]. His life had become a record of poverty and disappointment but he may have mellowed somewhat for Paley Baildon remarked on his ‘great fund of anecdote and humour’ [261] and young Corrie Leonard Thompson (1868-1897), who cannot have known him long, said that he ‘bore with him a most kindly manner’ [262]. In his later years ‘the Major’ spent the majority of his time in the Record Office taking notes from the Plea Rolls. His income must have been slight but A. L. Morton noted that one source was research for other people called Harrison, though his extravagant pretensions and arrogant manner antagonised his fellow genealogists, ‘They regarded him as a crazy imposter while he regarded them as ignorant charlatans’. On his death in 1890 Edward Walford recalled that he had sought advertisements in his Antiquarian Magazine as ‘the only living genealogist’ and another writer ridiculed his pretensions and wrote that he ‘could only be regarded as a madman’ [263]. However, the lasting value of his indexing and abstracts was recognised and his daughter was able to sell twelve volumes of extracts from the De Banco and Coram Rege Rolls, written between 1865 and 1888, to the Record Office for £240 [264]. She had asked £600 for his thirty volumes. The remainder came into the possession of the genealogist Arthur Campling (died 1947) and after his death the Office bought a further five volumes, the remainder going to another genealogist Philip Blake (died 1994) and coming to the Office after his death. Harrison’s contemporary Walter Rye thought his advertisement of an index to the De Banco rolls ‘most misleading’, saying ‘he had an index to his notes or extracts only’ and adding ‘all young genealogists should be most careful of believing anything he wrote’ [265]. The references may be valuable but his stated relationships are entirely untrustworthy. Undoubtedly industrious, he lacked all critical sense.

Plantagenet Harrison died in Islington, 18 July 1890, and his widow Maria died in 1922. Their only child Blanche (1863-1934), married in 1892, John Christopher Cain Routh (1856-1939),but had no issue.

Horace Round

The history of genealogy is far from being that of a steady development of the subject, encouraged by dedicated and pleasant people, and amongst the eccentrics there have always been some genealogists who are thoroughly unpleasant and, indeed, quite impossible people. For all that the great medieval scholar John ‘Horace’ Round (1854-1928), a pupil of the Oxford historian William Stubbs (1825-1901),contributed to the subject and despite the sympathetic biographies accorded him by William Page [266], Frank Stenton [267] and Raymond Powell [268], he was one of the least pleasant persons that the subject has produced. Of a nervous and delicate constitution and living almost entirely alone, he suffered debilitating headaches and other ill-health from an early age. However, throughout life he was eager to enter into controversy and he developed a withering contempt for other scholars and anyone with liberal tendencies, displayed in violent and unnecessarily repeated and venomous attacks on those of whom he disapproved or had the temerity to criticise him. An elderly aunt told him about 1896 that ‘a touch of envy and discontent is your besetting sin (from early years) and it takes such possession of your mind that you are almost unaware of it’ [269].

Horace Round came from a gentry family involved in the public life of Essex but he was of modest private means. An involvement in electioneering brought him an appointment as Deputy Lieutenant of the county in 1892 but although use of the fancy uniform gave him pleasure, it was an honorific post without duties and he subsequently had no formal position other than when ‘Honorary Historical Adviser to the Crown in peerage cases’ in 1914-21 [270]. Round thus had time to contribute an extraordinary number of articles, reviews and notes to various journals over a period of twenty-five years. He had developed an interest in genealogy when quite young and had written to Sir Bernard Burke whilst fresh at Balliol College in 1874, apparently with corrections to one of his books, but a subsequent offer of assistance with research at the Bodleian was ignored. In his final year the College Master, Benjamin Jowett, who had heard from Round’s tutor that he was ‘too fond of pedigrees’, told him that he should read Freeman’s fierce article on ‘Pedigrees and Pedigree Makers’ mentioned below [271], but his first publication was  a review of the 1879 edition of Burke’s Landed Gentry in the Saturday Review which praised its recent improvements [272]. Between 1881 and 1883 several of his genealogical papers appeared in Notes & Queries [273] and in those years he contributed to and promoted Joseph Foster’s Collectanea Genealogica and the latter's valuable new Peerage after which he eagerly gave support to the wealthy and avuncular George Edward Cokayne (1825-1911), Norroy King of Arms, then embarking on his monumental Complete Peerage (8 vols. 1887-98). They got on well, for although the prim Round ‘loved a lord’ and disapproved of the chronique scandaleuse found in Cokayne’s footnotes, Cokayne refused to be drawn into any quarrels [274].

Working at the Public Record Office, Round became friendly with Walford Selby, the superintendent of the search room, another well-connected Essex man, who had founded the Pipe Roll Society in 1883 and from 1884 was the editor of The Genealogist the mouthpiece of the critical school of genealogy. Selby claimed descent from the Browne family, viscounts Montagu, and at one time (like several others) had preferred a claim to that peerage, dormant or perhaps extinct since 1797. Between 1885 and 1903 Round contributed some 69 articles and notes to his journal, mostly on Anglo-Norman baronial families, though Selby, who died in 1889, was already referring to Round as ‘the official nightmare’! [275]. The prolific Round also contributed over 40 items to Edward Walford’s Antiquary (1880-7) and the Antiquarian Magazine (from 1882). Between 1885 and 1900 he wrote 78 articles for the Dictionary of National Biography, utilising recently published record sources and often, for the first time, demonstrating how genealogy could assist the historian [276].

Freeman’s pamphlet on the Nature and Origin of the House of Lords (1884) annoyed Round intensely and was the beginning of a life-long war on Freeman’s partiality and inaccuracy. Lord Lytton thought Freeman ‘a pretentious fellow and a bad writer’ [277]. Meanwhile, as a result of the three papers which Round gave at the octocentenary celebrations of Domesday Book in 1886 and published in Domesday Studies (1888),he became a recognised authority on Domesday [278]. His biography of Geoffrey de Mandeville (1892) with its use of royal charters, followed by Feudal England (1895) and his Calendar of Documents preserved in France (1899) [279] established him as a leading historian of the Anglo-Norman period [280]. He had excellent French having lived in France when very young. For the Calendar, on which he worked for five years and visited France seven times, he was paid half a guinea a printed page and earned a total of £386 [281].

Also in 1886 Round played a leading part in the foundation of the English Historical Review and until 1923 contributed some 63 items to all but two of its annual volumes [282]. Taking the value of good reviews very seriously, he provided it with over two hundred [283]. However, other historians were becoming increasingly wary of him and his editors needed great patience and firmness. Liberal disciples of Freeman such as Thomas Archer, Kate Norgate, Charles Oman and William Stephens were, after Freeman’s death in 1892, pilloried unmercifully [284], and following the publication of the Red Book of the Exchequer (1896), edited by a former friend Hubert Hall, then Senior Clerk at the PRO and Director of the Royal Historical Society, Round carried out a vicious and sustained attack on him. Hall, who was not a strong medievalist and had, in the legal historian Professor Frederic Maitland’s words, ‘a curious fluffy mind’, was also ‘a right good sort’ but was constrained by his official position and he said with some justification that these attacks were prompted by ‘private malice’. They were probably made worse by his work at the newly founded London School of Economics and his friendship with social reformers such as Sidney and Beatrice Webb [285]. However, Round’s selection of topics for his next work, The Commune of London (1899), seems to have been largely dictated (as was the case with his later books) as vehicles for personal animus and he was now widely disliked and feared [286]. He lost the friendship of Maitland who openly criticised his aggressiveness and bad manners and indeed his failure to sustain a continuous narrative without striking out at someone of whom he disapproved [287].

In 1899, having involved himself in various political and religious controversies, Round, a lonely man needing to be wanted, threw himself into the work of the Victoria County History and became a friend and supporter of its General Editors, Arthur Doubleday and William Page. As the ‘Domesday Editor’ of the series, he promoted it with evangelical fervour and contributed to it almost full-time until 1901 and from 1905 to 1908, though frequently criticising its arid style and lack of adequate maps [288]. The original plan was that each county would have a volume of pedigrees of local families which had held a seat and landed estate in the male line since 1760, but owing to the great expenditure involved those for Northamptonshire (2 vols. 1906) edited by Oswald Barron and for Hertfordshire (1907) edited by Duncan Warrand, were the only ones to appear [289].

In 1902, as noted above, Round and Barron persuaded Doubleday to found the quarterly magazine, The Ancestor, intending that it should set new standards in scholarship. Raymond Powell calls Oswald Barron, the son of a marine engineer from Dagenham, ‘an erratic little man without social graces’, but he got on surprisingly well with Round to whom he was ‘fiercely loyal, and submissive under reproof’. However, Barron, who had been educated at Merchant Taylors’ School and in the 1890s worked as a record searcher in the extensive practice of Henry Farnham Burke at the College of Arms, was unable to restrain Round’s taste for controversy and The Ancestor, as W. H. Benbow Bird told Round in 1903, had become ‘a vehicle for your personal animosities’ and was frightening away potential contributors [290]. Bird, a noted editor of the Close Rolls, had himself contributed the famous article on ‘The Grosvenor Myth’ to the magazine’s first volume but Round, who could not bear any form of criticism, savaged him over the Trafford pedigree in The Ancestor in 1905 and characteristically returned in 1910 to savage him again and at greater length in Peerage and Pedigree [291]. By late 1905 Round was a very sick man [292] and with Arthur Doubleday’s departure from Constables, the journal ceased publication [293]. Barron went on to write popular daily articles as ‘The Londoner’ on general topics for The Evening News, revealing an urbane personality of great charm [294], and he gained great acclaim for his magisterial article on ‘Heraldry’ in the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica. To that encyclopedia Horace Round contributed some 36 articles, including that on the ‘Battle Abbey Roll’.

Since 1897 Round had also been involved, initially with Joseph Foster who had strong views on the subject, with the rights of Baronets (some fifty of whom had very dubious claims to their titles) [295] and he worked hard on their reform and to give a stricter scrutiny to the descent and assumption of titles.  A Departmental Committee on the Baronetage, appointed by the Home Secretary in 1907, was of the opinion that the position held by members of the College of Arms in the examination of such claims did ‘not guarantee the necessary legal training and experience to qualify them for the task’ [296]. After the establishment of the Official Roll of the Baronetage in 1910 Round involved himself in the work of the Committee of Privileges of the House of Lords, being regularly consulted on peerage claims, and apparently hoping that he might himself receive some public recognition as a peer or privy councillor [297].

In 1910 Round published two substantial volumes, Peerage and Pedigree: studies in peerage law and family history (750 copies, 25s.),the first of which was concerned mainly with the descent of dignities and the inconsistent and sometimes conflicting rules that had been applied. He discussed these at length in ‘The Muddle of the Law’ and ‘The House of Lords’. His second volume treated family history, as he wrote ‘in the modern critical spirit and on the same principles as other history’. In ‘Some “Saxon” houses’ he tackled at length the claimed Saxon descents of families found in Burke, following this with ‘The great Carington imposture’, an extended and savage attack on the History and Records of the Smith-Carrington family from the Conquest (1907) by Walter Arthur Copinger (1847-1910), Professor of Law at Victoria University, Manchester, and an expert on conveyancing, the registration of whose pedigree at the College of Arms had caused Round great indignation. Copinger, perhaps fortunately, had died just a month earlier. Round continued with ‘The Geste of John de Courcy’, an attack on Edward Irving Carlyle (1871-1952), the author of the article about de Courcy (amongst dozens of others) in the Dictionary of National Biography of which Carlyle was the Assistant Editor, Round describing him with heavy sarcasm as ‘doubtless a distinguished historian’. His final article was ‘Heraldry and the Gent’ with its attack on A. C. Fox-Davies mentioned below.

The perverse Round did not deign to appear before the Royal Commission on Public Records between 1910 and 1919 and, as John Cantwell says, ‘did not disguise his contempt for it’ [298], but that probably had much to do with the fact that the hated Hubert Hall, a dedicated and tireless advocate for archives, was its Secretary. However, in spite of his health Round took a leading part and gave two lectures at the International Congress of Historical Studies in London in April 1913 [299]. In one talk, entitled ‘Historical Genealogy’, he discussed genealogy as a branch of history, genealogy based on historical research principles, and genealogy’s own development. He thought that genealogy’s services to the general historian ‘can easily be overrated’ though it was essential for an understanding of Domesday Book and the feudal baronage. However, he thought it ‘of supreme value’ for topographical history and for the charting of manorial descents prior to 1485, saying that ‘the topographer should always have a pedigree by his side, and the genealogist a local map’. After 1485 genealogy was ‘unconnected with the tenure of land’ and became a ‘study based on other sources than the records of manorial descent’. It was to many minds ‘a subject of ridicule and of scorn’ and he spoke of the fabulous pedigrees in Burke’s Peerage and Landed Gentry. He could not accept ‘as a true student of genealogy one who cares for nothing but the pedigree of his own family’. The great age of pedigree concoction had been from the middle of the sixteenth to the middle of the seventeenth century and he blamed the heralds for the decadence of heraldic art, the commercial granting or arms, the producton of armorial scrolls and for greedily swallowing forged charters and seals, the great Burghley being ‘pedigree-mad’. With infinite labour he had set himself to expose them, ‘nailing them up one by one, as a gamekeeper nails his vermin, and trying to place the critical study of genealogical evidence on a sound and historical basis’. Under Charles II the public records in the Tower of London were, he said, searched with such assiduity that the knowledge of their contents became ‘absolutely astounding’ and the publication of Dugdale’s Baronage of England (1675-6) had been a landmark, standing for honesty and truth. Of the earlier heralds he used only the work of Robert Glover, Somerset Herald. He praised as ‘historical genealogy’ John Smyth’s great work on the Berkeleys, extracted from public records and charters and written on historical principles. Arthur Collins, although industrious and well qualified, lacked independence and his peerage was ‘crammed with ludicrous genealogy’ which was copied into Burke and now moved historians ‘to contempt and scorn’. He said that after 1832 two rival schools of genealogy developed: firstly that of the complaisant heralds and Burke, and secondly the critical and historical school founded by John Gough Nichols through his valuable periodicals and carried on by The Genealogist, ‘in spite of small demand  for work of this character’. Joseph Foster’s attempt at a historically truthful Peerage had been ‘remarkably successful’. It was far easier to construct a spurious pedigree than to demolish an imposture, especially if it adduced no evidence. Pedigrees on ‘record’ at the College of Arms would not necessarily meet modern standards of proof. The word ‘tradition’ should excite no reverence. He ended by saying, ‘Show us the evidence – valid evidence, such as historians would accept – and we will gladly admit a pedigree from the Norman Conquest, its splendour increased by the very methods which have enabled us to purge genealogy of its dross and to give you its ore alone’.

In 1914 (by which date his branch of the Round family had been removed from Burke’s Landed Gentry) he was appointed Honorary Historical Adviser to the Crown in peerage cases. His advice was not always taken [300] and he resigned in 1922. In 1905 Round had accepted an honorary LL.D. from Edinburgh University but he perversely declined the Fellowship of the British Academy because Sir Charles Oman was elected at the same time and he declined that of the Society of Antiquaries because there was an entrance fee [301].

Meanhile, his work on the revival of dormant peerages had brought him into conflict with his former friend Arthur Doubleday who fiercely attacked the process in an unnecessarily provocative article in the Complete Peerage in 1916 [302]. Round responded violently in the English Historical Review in 1918 [303] charging Doubleday with inaccuracy and plagiarism. Doubleday together with the editor of the Review and its publisher threatened to sue Round for malicious libel and they were compelled to admit that the charges were ‘not substantiated’ and to publish an apology [304]. Geoffrey Henllan White (1873-1969) [305], a later editor of the Complete Peerage, thought that the charges against Arthur Doubleday were entirely devoid of justification. Until that time Round had assisted with the first four volumes of the revised Complete Peerage and its appendices but after the row with Doubleday in 1916 he took no active part in the preparation of subsequent volumes [306]. After an internal operation in 1915 Round was an invalid [307]. Although he had long been a crony of the industrious Walter Rye (about whom he poked fun as ‘Waltah’ behind his back) they exchanged bitter blows in 1920 when Round published a vicious attack on one of his books in the English Historical Review and an indignant Rye countered with a list of some fifty-seven people that Round had abused in print! [308].

Geoffrey White, writing after Round’s death in 1928, said that he was undoubtedly the greatest master of historical genealogy, equipped with much learning and insight and possessed of a remarkable skill in analysing evidence and detecting the weak points in the fraudulent pedigrees that he exposed, having a whole-hearted contempt for the sham genealogy and dishonest heralds of earlier days [309]. The Revd Henry Denny wrote, 'To him more than any other individual may be given the credit of having raised Genealogy from the realms of 'gorgeous mythology' to the position of an exact and scientific department of History' in which narratives were based solely upon citations to primary sources [310]. A bibliography of  Round’s works by Raymond Powell lists some 960 items, 940 of them articles in some 45 periodicals or reference works [311].


Joseph Jackson Howard, George Marshal and, at the end of his life, Oswald Barron all had official appointments at the College of Arms and there was never any suggestion that their periodicals should form the basis of any larger organisation that might create a library or, Heaven forbid, undertake research that would take clients away from the College. In 1867, as described below, John Gough Nichols had himself carried out an attack on 'the tribe of advertising quacks who endeavour to intercept the business which ought to come to the hands of the professional Heralds' [312] and many clearly held that view.

However, although Sir Anthony Wagner wrote that English genealogists are individualists, who show no wish to be organized [313], there were some attempts to found a society of persons interested in genealogy in London in the nineteenth century, though they had no lasting impact and their collections, such as they were, have not survived. As mentioned, the College of Arms and long-standing and extensive professional practices viewed such associations, even into the twentieth century, with suspicion and concern, fearing that they would take paid work away from them.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society had been founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 1847 and is now the oldest genealogical society in the world. A year earlier the ‘London Genealogical Society’ had been launched, a notice in the Morning Post for 11 March 1846 proclaiming that, ‘The Council will proceed to the next election of Fellows, Members, &c., on the 18th instant. Candidates are requested to forward their cards without delay. As a list of the corresponding members for each county is nearly complete, gentlemen desirous of being appointed for the county in which they reside, previous to a general visitation, are requested to apply to the Marshal as early as possible. Prospectuses and rules may be had on application – Genealogical Record Office, 32, Cockspur Street, Pall Mall’ [314].

The great wit Douglas Jerrold (1803-1857), writing in Punch in February, had seen the Society’s prospectus and with heravy sarcasm had made fun of ‘the astounding utility of this society’ with its ‘many nascent benefits’ and in particular its proposed visitations of the kingdom at which ‘arms and pedigree’ might be recorded for a guinea and membership obtained for two guineas [315]. The article said that a Genealogical Institution was also to be established and revealed that the ‘Marshal and Principal’ behind this money-raising scheme was calling himself ‘E. Wyrelle M. Weber’. Weber seems to have taken the idea from Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick’s Heraldic Visitations of Wales (1846) to which he had subscribed that year [316]. He certainly deceived the Yorkshire historian and journalist John Walker Ord (1811-1853) who, in an advertisement for his History and Antiquities of Cleveland (1847), proudly styled himself ‘Corresponding Member and Fellow of the London Genealogical Society’ [317].

Weber was a very doubtful character. He had been born at Ellesmere in Shropshire in 1812 as Edward Worall, the son of a ‘deedsman’. When he went bankrupt in 1849 [318] it was stated that before coming to London he had been an ‘author’ at Stratford-upon-Avon and at Wellington in Shropshire. After the promotion of his ‘London Genealogical Society’ he had been Secretary to the National Reform League and a ‘town traveller’, but when in prison as an insolvent debtor in 1856 it was revealed that he had been sued and was commonly known as Edward Wyrall, ‘author and artist’, and had a wife who was a Professor of Music. Indeed, the couple had at least five surviving children. These he deserted in 1869 when he married bigamously in Staffordshire one Eugénie Frédérique Nifenecker, a teacher of French, some thirty years his junior, by whom he had further children. At the time of his death at Hanley in 1873 he was calling himself ‘De Wyrall’ and had been variously described as a teacher, antiquarian and transcriber. It is perhaps not surprising that in April 1852 a correspondent to Notes & Queries calling himself ‘Metaouo’, said that shortly after its foundation he had been appointed corresponding member to the London Genealogical Society, but on going to the rooms one morning he had found that the concern had ‘vanished into thin air’ [319].

The original announcement of the ‘visitation’ from Shrewsbury had produced a perceptive note under the heading ‘The Genealogical Society of London’ in the Spectator which was copied into several other papers, saying ‘The announcement must have fluttered the hearts of the whole squirearchy ‘round the Wrekin’. All who have summered or wintered in ‘country quarters’ know the tendency of genealogies to grow backwards. A wealthy grocer purchases an estate and settles down upon it; his grown-up sons and daughters are civilly received by the surrounding gentry; their children are the equal play-mates of the aristocratic nurseries; in the course of two or at the most three generations, the grocer’s family is incorporated into the body of the county gentry by a silent imperceptible process analogous to the assimilation of food by the human body. Strangers and slight acquaintancies, on the strength of a name, attribute relationships to the new family, which it does not deny and comes at last to believe. Many a respectable family tree grows after this inverted fashion: genealogies are formed as the Chinese have constructed their historical cycles, by calculating backwards. The number of these ex-post-facto genealogies in a ‘shop keeping’ nation is enormous.Their existence if often suspected, but from common politeness rarely if ever spoken about. And this agreeable state of half self-delusion the Genealogical Society of London threatens to terminate by their invasion of the county of Salop!’ [320].

Very shortly afterwards an ‘Heraldic and Genealogical Society of Great Britain and Ireland’ was announced with the object of collecting and publishing documentary evidence. A note in the Chelmsford Chronicle for Friday, 7 May 1847, said that the wealthy Earl of Shrewsbury, a catholic, was its President, with the Marquis of Bute, the Earl of Eglintoun and Sir Thomas Phillipps as vice-presidents. Its council of twelve members included Thomas Stapleton (Vice-President of the Society of Antiquaries),Sir Cuthbert Sharp and the young and well-connected William Downing Bruce (1824-1875), F.S.A. The latter, presumably the source of the information, was said to be ‘the author of many works on genealogical subjects, who is now preparing for publication a new edition of Douglas’ Baronage of Scotland, with revisions, corrections, and a continuation’.The society’s council was said to have appointed the Revd Roger Dawson Duffield, of Lamarsh Rectory, to be the corresponding member for Essex [321]. Perhaps John Walker Ord was confused between the two societies.

A correspondent, ‘W.P.A.’, asked about this organisation in Notes & Queries in March 1852 [322] and according to ‘Metaouo’ the following month [323], a prospectus issued ‘a few years ago’ had named its Secretary as William Downing Bruce, then of the United Services Institution, Whitehall. However, the London Gazette had revealed in November 1850 that Downing Bruce was then a law student and in a debtor’s prison! At his examination as a debtor the following month he gave a series of addresses and described himself as of no profession or employ, an author, a director of various railway companies and occasionally dealing in railway shares [324]. The President of the Society, the Earl of Shrewsbury was living abroad and died in  November 1852. How far the ‘Heraldic and Genealogical Society’ had actually existed is not clear, but it does not appear again. William Downing Bruce had married at Paris in November 1847 and he and his mother-in-law had some connection with the genealogist and fraudster Plantagenet Harrison. It was Major Dundas’s aspersions on Downing Bruce’s wife that provoked Harrison’s vicious attack on the major mentioned above. Downing Bruce’s debt being less than £20 he was discharged in January 1851 but not before there had been allegations of forgery in which Pantagenet Harrison and his brother Francis Harrison were also involved [325]. Downing Bruce, who published a pamphlet on the ecclesiastical courts in 1854, was afterwards a judge in Jamaica!

However, the Genealogical and Historical Society of Great Britain, founded in 1853-4, 'for the illustration of family history, lineage and biography' and meeting until 1857 at 18 Charles Street, St James’s Square [326], certainly was a membership society and had a slightly longer existence. Correspondents in Notes & Queries later said that the promoters of this organisation had, on 14 May 1854, issued an admirable prospectus that deserved support and that it used as its unregistered arms Azure three scrolls, a crest A hand holding a pen, and supporters Time and Fame each holding a scroll [327]. An early idea to establish a branch in Cheshire and North Wales, though warmly welcomed in the local press [328], seems to have been quickly abandoned even though the Morning Chronicle carried a passionate manifesto of the value of such local societies. It ends, ‘Aid would be given to aid, information to information, correction to correction, illustration to illustration, evidence to evidence, which would prove satisfactory, truthful, and pleasing in the result’ [329].

In July 1855 the new Society advertised its existence in Notes & Queries, saying that it had been founded 'by several Noblemen and Gentlemen interested in Genealogical and Historical research, for the elucidation and compilation of Family History, Lineage, and Biography, and for authenticating and illustrating the same' [330]. The journalist and compiler Edward Walford (1823-1897), then involved in producing the Shilling Peerage, took the chair at the first AGM on 13 November 1855 and said that Lord Strangford (director of the Society of Antiquaries) had agreed to be the President but had died. A journal was to be commenced early the following year and there was an urgent need to establish a library. The chairman optimistically said that ‘he hoped all chances of misunderstanding that might possibly arise with the Herald’s College had been removed by private explanation, and showed that the interests of the two bodies were, in point of fact, identical’ [331]. That would certainly not have satisfied those at the College.

The society's Secretary throughout its existence was Theodore Rycroft Dalby Reeve (1821-1911), known as 'Rycroft Reeve', who lived then in Brompton Crescent, Kensington and variously described himself as a journalist, literary writer, art critic and genealogist [332]. From reports of the early meetings he seems to have been interested in ‘family history prior to the Norman Invasion’. The President, elected in 1856, was George (Egerton), Viscount Brackley, formerly Liberal-Conservative M.P. for North Staffordshire, who succeeded his father as 2nd Earl of Ellesmere in 1859 and inherited a large portion of the property of the last Duke of Bridgewater. His father had been a book collector and patron of learned societies who opened the famous picture gallery at Bridgewater House to the public and the son was also a scholarly man, a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Trustee of the British Museum.

At the Annual Meeting on 20 December 1856, Viscount Brackley, then a Vice-President took the chair and said that the membership had increased considerably and that a number of old families had entrusted the Society with their manuscripts [333]. At another meeting in May 1857 it was noted how economically the Society’s proceedings had been conducted and that various books had been donated, some richly emblazoned pedigrees being laid on the table [334]. By then the Society was regularly advertising its existence in the Morning Post.

By the time of the Society’s fifth Annual Meeting on 11 August 1858 it had moved to ‘the Society’s house, 208 Piccadilly’, though it did not appear in the London Directories until 1861. The rooms there were apparently above Francis Pastorelli & Co, wholesale opticians, on the south side of Piccadilly near St James's Church [335].

With Lord Ellesmere as President the Society became more active and between 1858 and 1863 it published Annual Reports and a List of Members [336] but described itself as 'purely a learned' society, meaning that it did not undertake paid research and thus posed no threat to the College of Arms. The 1858 report says that in the absence of Lord Ellesmere, Lord Farnham, a vice-president, took the chair and that there was ‘a very numerous attendance of Fellows, amongst whom were several leading members of the aristocracy and leaders in the literary world’. At the ‘inconveniently crowded’ meeting a young man called Samon Service (died 1865),an insurance agent at Barton upon Irwell and the son of a parish clerk at Bowdon in Cheshire, outlined a scheme to make a summary index of the kingdom’s parish registers prior to 1836 and although the Revd Thomas Hugo (1820-1876), the ultra-High-Church Bewick collector, objected to the idea as against the vested interest of parish clerks and clergymen, the Revd Richard Cox Hales, Rector of Woodmancoat, said that the private interests of a few clergy should be made to yield to the convenience of the public and that compensation might be provided. The family historian Sir Edward Conroy (1809-1869),the spoilt son of Queen Victoria’s hated Sir John Conroy, said that something should be done to make the registers more available; when he was in the Registrar General’s department (he had resigned as Deputy Registrar General in 1842) he had looked at many schemes and he thought the present one worthy of examination by the Society. Several elaborate pedigrees, including one of Lord Farnham prepared by Sir Bernard Burke, were again laid on the table [337].

The Society's Sixth Annual Meeting was held at Lord Ellesmere’s town house, Bridgewater House, near St James's Palace, on Wednesday, 6 July 1859. An original invitation which I have indicates that Fellows were allowed to introduce visitors, carriages being instructed 'to set down in Little St James's Street'. Lord Ellesmere had presided at the council meeting in May and his invitation to Bridgewater House had been noted in the Morning Post [338], so there was a considerable gathering at the meeting when between four and five hundred persons were present. It was then said that the Society had upwards of 200 associates (perhaps mostly honorary), giving assistance freely to each other [339].

In an effort to gain greater publicity for the Society, Lord Ellesmere again opened the magnificent Bridgewater House to its members for a grand reception on 17 July 1860 when refreshments were served throughout the evening to ‘a numerous and brilliant assembly, composed of ladies and gentlemen in about equal proportions’ in rooms adjoining the picture gallery where the Society’s seventh AGM was held. Unfortunately the President was indisposed but Lord Ebury took the chair. He referred to the ‘many persons who are in want of the aid and information which an association of this kind is capable of affording’ and mentioned the many documents which had been ‘copied, registered, compared, and placed in form’, but the Secretary’s report revealed that the arrears of subscriptions totalled £679-7-0 and there was only £12-14-0 in the bank. There were four talks (on the Domesday Survey, the Anglo-Saxon Kings, Chronicles and Heraldry, on the Half-crown, and on Artificial Memory as applied to the Study of History) but thankfully we are assured that, ‘The proceedings terminated at an early hour’ [340].

From its early days the Society had elected Honorary Fellows and the newspapers of the time contain many references to persons who had been so distinguished [341], but that this provided any income for the organisation is unlikely. It cannot have been helped by the publicity given to an action, settled out of Court, which Commander George Baring Browne Collier, R.N. (1816-1890), a grandson of Admiral Sir George Collier, K.T., took against the Society’s secretary Rycroft Reeve for ‘neglecting to do what he undertook’ in August 1863. Collier believed that he was descended from a Baron de la Roche who had been summoned to attend Parliament in 1299-1306 and Reeve had undertaken to furnish the missing link. Collier, believing Reeve to be ‘the secretary of a genealogical society and a person likely to be able to furnish him with the required information’, had paid him £386 but now Reeve ‘had not found the missing link, and refused to give up the papers’. It was said that Reeve ‘had not gone the right way to work as a skilled man should have done’ and instead of ascertaining who the last baron was and whether he had issue, had attempted to trace Collier’s pedigree backwards in all its lines [342]. The ‘Baron’ had been summoned to Parliament by writs directed ‘Thome de la Roche’ whereby, according to modern doctrine, he had become Lord Roche, but none of his descendants were summoned to Parliament and any peerage that may have been created by the writs went into abeyance in 1382 [343].

The unfortunate court case had immediately followed the death in September 1862 of the Society’s invalid President, Lord Ellesmere, aged 39. His uncle wrote of him, 'No man ever bore so wearisome and painful an existence with more exemplary patience and resignation' [344]. His widow survived until 1916 but the Society now quickly went into a steep decline.

The Society’s officers moved its premises across Piccadilly to rooms at No 29 above those of a piano manufacturer and auctioneers and an entry in Lowndes' Bibliographer's Manual, perhaps written late in 1864, says that 'Several pedigrees of families have been executed by the Society, which may be inspected at the Society's Rooms' [345]. However, although the organisation continued to appear in the London directories until 1882 and was listed amongst the 'principal societies' in Phillimore's How to write the history of a family in 1888 [346] it had apparently long been moribund. A ‘London Correspondent’, writing in the Lancaster Gazette in 1874, said that he was constantly being asked by friends in the country if he could tell them anything about the Society and he had been at some pains to make enquiries about it but without success. It held no meetings, published no transactions and did not name its ruling body and ‘must really be a very strange sort of association’ [347]. In response to an enquiry from ‘Y.S.M.’ in Notes & Queries for 23 July 1887, its former chairman Edward Walford wrote to say that it had done very little work after the first year or two and he did not know if it still existed. Its place was, he thought, fairly well supplied by the Royal Historical Society [348].

The writers in Notes & Queries in 1887 knew nothing about the organisation's papers or about all those pedigrees which had been laid on the table and about which Rycroft Reeve kept strangely quiet. He did not join the discussion, although named and his address at 25 Oakley Street, Chelsea, given. George Sherwood asked yet again through Notes &Queries about the society’s papers in 1905 [349] but received no answer. It was not until after Reeve’s death intestate at Wandsworth, aged 91, early in 1911 [350] that Richard John Fynmore (1839-1920), of Sandgate, a banker who had followed his activities in 1858-60, replied, but Reeve’s death was not mentioned [351]. The Editor may have known more about Reeve’s circumstances than he was willing publicly to say.

In the very early days of the Society its Manager, Henry Harvey of 14 Regent Square, Gray's Inn Road, who had later worked for various assurance companies, had gone bankrupt in August 1855 [352]. It is probably not a coincidence that someone of this name was much later a clerk to George Thomas Condy, a solicitor who was also involved in several London assurance companies but who also had gone bankrupt in February 1854 [353]. Rycroft Reeve was appointed the latter’s assignee in May 1854 [354]. In October 1872, Condy, aged 47, of Battersea, and Harvey, aged 53, of Pimlico, accountant, were sentenced at the Central Criminal Court to twelve months hard labour for conspiring together to defraud the creditors of one Abraham Fox, a bankrupt, by placing false claims on his file at the Bankruptcy Court [355].

Meanwhile in 1867 the periodical The Herald and Genealogist had noted the current popularity of heraldry and genealogy as witnessed by the number of publications on those subjects and by the great use that was being made of the genealogical manuscripts at the British Museum. It was at this time that its editor, John Gough Nichols, referred to 'the tribe of advertising quacks’, having received two circulars from one Henry Delaine calling himself the Secretary of the Fraternity of Genealogists at 51 King Street, Regent Street [356]. Delaine claimed that 'A Society of Practical Genealogists (resident in all the principal towns of England, Scotland, and Wales) has been formed for the purpose of properly and correctly tracing the pedigrees of families of ancient date. By this union access is acquired to every Public Library in Great Britain, and also to most of the celebrated Private Libraries. By the latter, very many perfect and valuable pedigrees and other MSS have been discovered, the existence of which was previously unknown, and by this, the pedigrees of very many families of note have been traced by Genealogists and others in the olden time can be laid before them'. He went on to say that several thousand pedigrees had been culled mostly from private libraries and that the pedigrees in the College of Arms 'are but copies of the most perfect in the Harleian Library, to examine and have copies of which, large sums are demanded'. The fee for an 'ancient pedigree' was two guineas pre-paid.

The editor of Punch, Shirley Brooks (1816-1874), rightly doubted Delaine’s statement that ‘most people can trace back to the 17th century and so join the modern and ancient pedigree’ and said of this ‘fraternal offer’ that he could make a pedigree for himself [357] but several of the circulars survive and a few families are known to have parted with their guineas and received pedigrees. However, later in 1867 [358] the credibility of Henry Delaine's work was doubted by the Sussex antiquary Mark Antony Lower (1813-1876) [359] and Delaine disappeared. That there had been any actual union of genealogists is unlikely as an appeal for information about the Fraternity in Notes & Queries in 1897 produced only a reference to Rycroft Reeve's former society [360].

Burke’s Peerage

When George Sherwood wrote in 1909 of 'manufactured ancestors' and of a study that was 'neither literature nor science' he was referring to the published work of Sir Bernard Burke on the peerage and landed gentry. More than forty years later, Brigadier Basil Charles Trappes-Lomax wrote that there are two roads that the genealogist may travel. The first is straight and has signposts with but one word on them 'Truth'. The other road, he wrote, is the one made primrose by the fictions enshrined in print by the brothers Burke [361].

The malign shadow cast by the Irish herald and genealogist, John 'Bernard' Burke (1814-1892), fell across the first half of the twentieth century and even today has not been fully blown away, for the fictions that he propagated in his many works and which were given a spurious authority by his knighthood and his badge of office as Ulster King of Arms (stamped lavishly on everything he did), still rear their ugly heads and are to be found in many computer databases worldwide.

Bernard Burke was the son of John Burke (1787-1848) of Gower Street, London, a catholic Irish printer who in 1826 had the bright idea of publishing a one-volume peerage in which all the entries would be in alphabetical order and which would show the ancestry of the first peer. It was intended to rival several other peerages appearing at that time, in which, like the established two- or three-volume Peerage of John Debrett (1753-1822), the entries were arranged by rank with the dukes, marquises, earls, viscounts and barons of the United Kingdom in separate groups, followed by those for Scotland and Ireland similarly arranged, but with consolidated indexes of surnames and titles. Burke's single volume was thus much easier to consult and it had an immediate success.

Like other peerage writers of the period John Burke used the indented narrative form long prevalent in Europe but he had a serious rival in a peerage produced in the name of the herald Edmund Lodge (1756-1839), Norroy King of Arms, descibed by Anthony Wagner as a ‘pioneer of social and biographical history and the study of historical portraiture’ and known for his annotated Illustrations of British History, Biography and Manners (3 vols. 1791) and similar works [362]. Lodge’s Peerage of the British Empire as now Existing  (annual from 1832) was more accurate and more nicely produced than Burke’s but its pedigrees did not extend beyond the first peer. Quite separate concentrated accounts of their ancestries were provided in another volume called The genealogy of the existing British Peerage (also from 1832). The benevolent Edmund Lodge had in 1832 allowed his name to be used by three sisters, Anne (1790-1856), Eliza (1793-1861) and Maria Catherine (1796-1880), the daughters of Charles Innes (1763-1824), a linen draper and haberdasher at the corner of Chancery Lane and Fleet Street, but a son of the Rector of Devizes and a cadet of the family of Innes of Coxton [363]. The girls were fond of heraldry and genealogy and had previously published Sams’s Annual Peerage and Baronetage (4 vols. 1827-9) but now with the patronage of the Duchess of Kent and of Queen Victoria they continued to edit Lodge’s Peerage until about 1865 when Maria had problems with her sight, their highly esteemed Peerage continuing publication until 1932 [364].

As mentioned above John Burke's pedigrees were based largely on those to be found in the 1812 edition of Collins's Peerage and on the many other peerages that had appeared since Dugdale's Baronage but, unlike the best of them he rarely provided any indication of his sources for specific statements or ancestries. However, sensing the commercial possibilities and in a deplorable period rich in genealogical fable [365]. Burke then produced in rapid succession an Extinct and Dormant Peerage (1831; 3rd edn 1846), the Genealogical and heraldic history of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland (4 vols. 1833-7), A genealogical and heraldic history of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland (3 vols. 1843-9; 2nd edn 1850-3, and many subsequent editions), Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies of England, Ireland, and Scotland (1838, 1841, 1844), a General Armory of England, Scotland and Ireland (1842), The Royal Families of England, Scotland and Wales (1847-51), a Roll of Battle Abbey (1848) and other works.

From 1840 onwards John Burke was much assisted by his son Bernard, who had been admitted to the Middle Temple in 1835 and was called to the bar at the end of 1839, and Bernard's name appears on the title pages of the Peerage in 1840 and of the Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies in 1841. At the bar he made good money from peerage and genealogical cases and he continued his father's business after the latter's death in 1848. Bernard’s elder brother Peter Burke (1811-1881), barrister and serjeant-at-law, was also involved in peerage cases. Bernard Burke, although a 'concealed Catholic' and educated in France (about which he kept very quiet), was appointed Ulster King of Arms in Ireland in December 1853 and knighted by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland at Dublin Castle in February 1854. He served as ‘Ulster’ until his death in 1892, being from 1855 also Keeper of the State Papers of Ireland.

For the next twenty years in Ireland, Bernard Burke devoted himself to the re-ordering and classification of the Irish records, securing the financial position of his office and introducing administrative reforms, a paragon of efficiency and attention to detail, but from the mid-1870s he busied himself with ceremonial duties. As early as 1872 he had written that his hand was 'so cupped' with rheumatism that he could 'scarcely hold a pen' and his last few years were plagued with ill-health [366]. Apart from the revisions of his father's reference works (discussed below), Bernard Burke oversaw the editing of annual Peerages from 1847 until his death and of the Landed Gentry from the third edition in 1843-9 to the seventh in 1886, as well as putting out a stream of popular multi-volume works with such titles as The romance of the aristocracyThe rise of great families and Vicissitudes of families, and The book of precedence (1881) on which he was an acknowledged expert. From the point of view of the Office of Arms in Dublin he and his predecessor as Ulster King of Arms, William Betham, were 'the right people in the right place at the right time' [367] for he made 'a significant contribution to the administration of the Office of Arms' [368] and his work on the Irish national records led to the passing of the Record Act in 1866 and the creation of the Irish Public Record Office in the Four Courts the following year.

One of those who knew Burke at Dublin Castle in those years wrote, 'How familiar was his little chirruping, cock-sparrow figure, his bright, round face, and with what reverence used he to call out the sacred words, "Their Excellencies"! I believe he looked upon the Lords Lieutenant as something supernatural. A good natured soul, always ready with some little service, capable of grand display - fluttering in his tabard or the blue mantle of St Patrick' [369]. The awe and deference with which Burke regarded 'grand' people is clear from everything he wrote and, in the style of the old peerage writers, he flattered them at every turn. It was the golden age of pedigree making and Burke, for all his abilities as an administrator, was 'no scholar, lacking both knowledge as a medievalist and a critical mind' [370]. Absurd ancestries were accepted and published and unpleasing facts carefully excised and omitted. Many of his pedigrees, both printed and manuscript, as Mary-Jane French wrote, 'contain specious and spurious accounts of early generations of prominent families', solely, it would seem, as a vehicle for flattery. What had been a necessary adjunct to obtaining a subscription to a work became an unnecessary habit. During a debate in the House of Commons in 1886, when there was a move to abolish his office, Matthew Kenny, M.P. for Mid-Tyrone, said that 'for a fee' Burke would provide anyone, if they were distinguished enough, with a pedigree back to the Norman Conquest [371]. A later editor of his Peerage, Charles Mosley, has called him ‘a charlatan, a pompous old fool’ [372]. He received a salary of £750 and another of £500 as Keeper of State Papers, but he made no fortune and his will was proved at £2,599-11-11.

Where the peerage was concerned Burke drew heavily on previously published works and he later accepted without question anything that he was told by the families concerned. This was in spite of his frequent claim, as in the Prefatory Notice to the first one-volume edition of the Landed Gentry (1858), that he had spared 'neither toil, nor devotion; every page has been re-written, every memoir carefully revised, and every pedigree minutely examined', followed by the usual flattery of his subjects who 'though undistinguished by hereditary titles, possess an undeniable right, from antiquity of race, extent of property, and brilliancy of achievement, to take foremost rank among the lesser nobility of Europe'. In 1882 he wrote that, 'no pains had been spared in the preparation of this edition of the Landed Gentry. Every available source of information has been exhausted, each memoir has been carefully revised, and in almost every instance the head of each family and many of the collaterals have been consulted. The correspondence thus carried on has brought thousands of communications from those most competent to improve the work', which had been 'the favourite occupation of a lifetime' [373]. Experience had not begun to teach him, as it did Arthur Charles Fox-Davies, not to 'believe for one moment, any man's account of his own family, or take his word concerning them. No matter how truthful a man may be’, Fox-Davies wrote, ‘his probity never seems to have stability on that one point' [374]. No wonder that Fox-Davies was so widely hated and Burke so widely loved!

Sir Bernard Burke wrote in 1883 that he had received 'thousands and thousands of communications' in the furtherance of his work and that 'The gentlemen of England did for The History of the Landed Gentry in the 19th century what their ancestors did for the Heralds Visitations of the 16th and 17th; they submitted freely and courteously their pedigrees and family documents, thus enabling me to produce a work which has, for a long series of years, been most favourably received' [375]. In 1891 he produced a two-volume Genealogical and heraldic history of the Colonial Gentry which contains many of the weaknesses of its British counterpart.

The qualification for inclusion in the early editions of Burke's Landed Gentry was, with good reason, not spelled out precisely. The title page of the first edition said that they were families 'enjoying territorial possessions or high official rank'. Philip Blake, writing in 1978 and usually well informed in these matters, understood that the qualification 'was not less than 1,500 acres until relatively modern times', but gives an example of a family in the 1876 edition with 700 acres [376]. Mark Bence-Jones says that the typical landed gentleman had something between a thousand and five thousand acres [377] but Peter Merton Reid wrote in 1969 that the qualification 'used to be ownership of five hundred acres and a coat-of-arms for at least three generations' [378], correcting this later, though without stated authority, to '300 acres of agricultural land' [379]. The editor L. G. Pine said in connection with the 1952 edition that fifty years ago the minimum land requirement had been 2,000 acres but that it was now 300 though any family might appear if it had rendered public service [380]. Michael Sayer says that the 1914 edition was the first to list families that had lost their land [381] and in the twentieth century the qualification for entry became little more than descent from an 'old' family or one that had formerly owned land, or, indeed, beginning with the 1965-72 edition, the acceptance by the editor of a pedigree submitted by any interested person. For Ireland, Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd wrote in 1976 that at the turn of the century the criterion had been about 1,000 acres, but after the Wyndham Land Purchase Act in 1903 that average was reduced to about 200 acres, though no family was disqualified from the 1904 and 1912 editions of Burke’s Landed Gentry of Ireland as a result [382].

Apart from his claim to extensive correspondence (which has not survived), little is known about Burke's method of work, but the final products rarely show evidence of the sources consulted and his claim to original research in general seems baseless [383]. The compilation of the revised General Armory (1878, 1883) and of the Extinct and Dormant Peerage (1866, 1883) and the updating of his father's other works presumably entailed the employment of someone other than his publisher in London but Burke himself lived permanently in Ireland at Tullamaine Villa, Upper Leeson Street, Dublin and he had no base in England. When he was thinking of publishing a revised General Armory in 1875, his calls to be informed of 'Blazons of Coats of Arms omitted in the original work' requested that they be sent to his publisher in London [384] and when his brother Peter Burke, another barrister, died in London in 1881, Bernard stayed at the Grosvenor Hotel in Buckingham Palace Road. For the 1878 revision he is known to have had the assistance of the commercially minded Stephen Isaacson Tucker (1835-1887), Rouge Croix at the College of Arms and the son of a discount broker, who made and quickly spent a fortune at that time [385].

Sir Bernard Burke had, even during his lifetime, some extremely fierce critics. As early as 1865 an anonymous writer, almost certainly George Burnett (1822-1890), LL.D., Advocate, who was appointed Lyon King of Arms in Scotland the following year, in a scathing booklet, Popular genealogists or the art of pedigree-making (Edinburgh, 1865) poured scorn on many of Burke’s works. In the first place Burke had, he said, a positive mania for introducing throughout his books and on the most frivolous grounds the statement that so-and-so ‘is entitled to quarter the royal arms’, something that would never be recognised by the English or Scottish heralds. He showed that the pedigree of the royal family in the Peerage indiscriminately omitted or ignored some of its immediate members. Burnett thought that in a few instances the lineages of peers were tolerably correct but these few were the exception, for ‘confusion and blundering’ were the more general rule in both the Peerage and Baronetage. For the Scottish peers the drawings of arms frequently differed from their heraldic descriptions. The Landed Gentry reflected no credit on its compiler for unlike the Peerage, which might to a slight extent be improving year by year, the Landed Gentry was deteriorating. Indeed the 'immense majority’ of its pedigrees were ‘utterly worthless ... Families of notoriously obscure origin have their veins filled with the blood of generations of royal personages of the ancient and mythical world' [386]. Fables were everywhere, ‘the small germs of truth being eked out with a mass of fiction’ and with a reckless disregard for dates and historical possibilities. As examples he disected the absurd pedigree and bogus seals submitted to the 1849 edition by John Ross Coulthart, a banker in Ashton-under-Lyne, tearing Coulthart’s account to shreds, and similarly ridiculing the many errors and inventions in the pedigree of Bonar where three generations of Presbyterian ministers had been transformed into Jacobite soldiers. Of Burke’s other works, Burnett said that they were full of the ‘same looseness’ and ‘easy credulity’ in everything that related to pedigree.

Ten years later Edward Augustus Freeman (1823-1892), the author of the magisterial History of the Norman Conquest (1867-76), questioned Sir Bernard's state of mind, asking in an article entitled ‘Pedigrees and Pedigree Makers’, 'Does he know, or does he not know, the manifest falsehood of the tales which he reprints year after year?' Did he think that the responsibility for their truth or falsehood rested with their contributors when, as editor, it was his duty to examine and verify them? Year after year he put forth these 'monstrous fictions, without contradiction, commonly without qualification or hesitation of any kind'. The covers of the Peerage were stamped with the royal arms and edited by a man from whom 'we have a right to expect historical criticism, and we do not get it' [387]. Instead, as Freeman says, 'such is the abiding life of the fables that they live through all [Burke's pretended] revision and amendment' and Freeman provides instances of the 'pedigree maker's power of invention', ridiculing Burke's 'gorgeous repertory of genealogical myths' in the accounts of the early Stourton, FitzWilliam, Wake, Ashburnham, Berkeley and D'Oyly families, and insisting that anyone who puts forward a pedigree, old or new, is subject to a 'burden of proof' and is duty bound to establish its authenticity by proving its every stated fact.

It was sadly unfortunate that Freeman, sometimes inaccurate in his own details and the proponent of the Oxford ‘liberal’ school of history, was himself to be mercilessly attacked on both scores by the ‘fierce, almost fanatical’ conservative, Horace Round [388]. Freeman and his followers represented King Harold as ‘the free choice of a free people’, but that idea and his account of the Battle of Hastings were ridiculed by Round, who held the Anglo-Norman baronage in high veneration, being himself the senior representative of the Malets of Enmore [389].

The year after Sir Bernard Burke's death, Horace Round took up this theme and wrote an article on 'The Peerage', i.e. Burke's Peerage, for the Quarterly Review, drawing attention to its 'errors, mis-statements and absurdities', and subsequently in his Studies in peerage and family history (1901), Peerage and pedigree: studies in peerage law and family history (2 vols. 1910) and in hundreds of reviews and articles, with 'cruel skill', as Sir Anthony Wagner later wrote, dissected and destroyed many of its pedigrees [390].

Bernard Burke had married in 1856 and had one daughter and seven sons [391]. His eldest son, Sir Henry Farnham Burke (1859-1930), was an absentee Deputy ‘Ulster’ to his father 1889-93, but had entered the College of Arms in London in 1880, rising to become Garter King of Arms in 1918. Like his father he was a highly competent man of business, but unlike his father he also had the reputation of being an able genealogist and master of the science and art of heraldry [392]. Both Oswald Barron and A. T. Butler had when young worked in his office.

However, another son, the less competent Ashworth Peter Burke (1864-1919), continued to edit the Landed Gentry from 1894 to 1906 and the Peerage until 1919. The many genealogists who had hoped to see an improvement in the articles in the Landed Gentry were quickly disappointed when the young Ernest Axon (1868-1947), a librarian at Manchester Public Library, wrote to Notes & Queries in 1894 saying that the first edition published since Sir Bernard’s death would ‘blast their hopes’. He wrote that ‘in numberless cases descents are implied that will not bear a moment’s examination’ and listed some thirty-nine examples of gross errors and absurd statements [393]. Ashworth Burke believed that, 'The nobility and gentry of the three Kingdoms are however by no means confined to these classes [the peerage and landed gentry], but include many other families of equal position, descent and alliance, for a gentleman derives his nobility from his ancestors and not from the mere possession of lands and titles' [394], and he published another group of pedigrees as Family Records (1897). The youngest son, Arthur Meredyth Burke (1872-1920), already mentioned, compiled the Key to the ancient parish registers of England and Wales (1908).

It was undoubtedly the fear of giving offence to influential people that fuelled the reluctance of subsequent editors of Burke's volumes, some of them very able genealogists, to remove from later editions all the false descents that so disfigured its pages. Alfred Trego Butler (1880-1946), Windsor Herald, who had worked with Henry Farnham Burke since the age of seventeen, edited the Peerage in the 1920s, and Arthur Charles Fox-Davies (1871-1928) and Harry Pirie-Gordon (1883-1969) edited the 1914 and 1937 editions of the Landed Gentry respectively. In his 1914 Preface, Fox-Davies says that the responsibility for the accuracy of the pedigrees had shifted from the families concerned and 'gradually fastened upon the Editor'. He noted that his excisions had often met with disfavour but 'the desire to believe has led to the belief in some most unconscionable rubbish'.

In spite of the slow improvement, every time a new edition of the Peerage or Landed Gentry appeared, genealogists came forward to criticise some of the pedigrees. In 1940 Brigadier B. C. Trappes-Lomax made an onslaught on the 'Moonshine from Burke' that had appeared in the 1938 Peerage, cataloguing the absurdities that still remained in many entries [395]. Even after the Second World War, when all Burke's office files and working papers were destroyed and the whole of the 1949 edition of the Peerage had to be newly set in type, the editor L. G. Pine, who claimed to have revised every genealogy in the light of modern criticism and had indeed vastly improved the text, did not seize the opportunity to remove all the remaining fictions, some of which had been exposed by Round more than half a century earlier [396].

Heraldic stationery

The first of Sherwood's strictures about 'old genealogy' had concerned the heraldic stationery trade. A right to arms in England had been, at least since the sixteenth century, decisive outward evidence of gentility, regulated through the Court of Chivalry and the Heralds Visitations. But despite the Court and the Visitations many unlicensed herald painters invaded the heralds' territory to give out false arms and pedigrees. William Dawkyns, for example, a 'dealer in arms and maker of false pedigrees', was tried in 1597 for providing spurious pedigrees to nearly a hundred families, mainly in Essex, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire, and was put in the pillory and had his ears cut off [397]. The Visitations ceased with the Glorious Revolution in 1688 and the Court of Chivalry hardly functioned in the eighteenth century and so between 1670 and 1770 there was, in the words of Anthony Wagner, 'a breakdown in heraldic authority' when the great Whig lords had little or no interest in regulating the bearing of arms. In those years arms were widely assumed, mostly without ancestral right or new grant, by the new urban leisured classes and tradesmen who 'thought that their position required armorial pretension'. At Ipswich in 1727 an Irish dancing-master, Robert Harman, assumed the title and functions of a king of arms, and took large fees in so doing [398]. Into the nineteenth century ideas of heraldic authority had little political backing and there was a widespread assumption of arms from the 50,000 listed by name in A complete body of heraldry (2 vols. 1780) compiled by the coach painter and herald Joseph Edmondson (died 1786) and then from its successor volumes: William Berry's Encyclopaedia heraldica; or complete dictionary of heraldry (4 vols. 1828),Thomas Robson's The British herald, or cabinet of armorial bearings of the nobility and gentry of Great Britain and Ireland (3 vols. 1830) and the Burke productions, The general armory (1842, 1844, 1847, 1878, 1884), each copying and expanding on the last until the 1884 edition contained about 100,000 references to arms by surname. True and false were inextricably mixed and all lacked references to sources.

Pirate 'Heraldic Offices' or heraldic stationers sprang up like wildfire, providing arms from these volumes to any interested person. The successors to William Dawkyns and Robert Harman were everywhere. Walter Rye wrote that they were to be avoided 'like poison' [399]. One of them Thomas Culleton (died 1887, aged 63), a copper plate engraver and printer from Wexford, Ireland, called himself the Genealogist at the Royal Heraldic Office, 25 Cranbourn Street, and 21 Great Newport Street, London, W. C., and advertised in the first edition of Edward Walford's County Families (1860), 'Send Name and County, and in Three Days you will receive a Correct Copy of your ARMORIAL BEARINGS, Plain Sketch, 3s.; in Heraldic Colours, 6s. ... AN INDEX kept, containing the Names of all Persons who are entitled to use Arms, as copied from the College of Arms, British Museum, and other places of authority'.  The sad truth, of course, is that not one in a thousand of the people who received these 'correct copies' would have had any right to use the arms provided. The brief outlines of family history which appeared in the early editions of Walford’s County Families were, as George Burnett wrote in 1865, ‘filled with matter so extraordinary that it is difficult to conceive from what source the writer could have collected it’ [400].

Thomas Culleton claimed that his Heraldic Office had been founded in 1840 and his shop in Cranbourn Street certainly built up a considerable working library on every aspect of European genealogy and heraldry, with staff going out daily to work at the British Museum and Record Office and heraldic artists painting hatchments and coach panels [401]. A very large collection of 'Research Notes on English Families' together with an index 'to certain selected groups of genealogical manuscripts in the British Museum', compiled by the firm, was microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah in 1959 [402]. Thomas's son Leo Culleton (1859-1922) was also an heraldic artist and a genealogist active across Europe. The firm flourished in King Street, St James, until 1935 when it was taken over by another old firm of heraldic stationers, Longman & Strongi'th'arm Ltd, which continued at 13 Dover Street, Piccadilly, until 1969.

Today the selling of 'arms of the name' is so widespread that it is almost pointless to rail against it, but a hundred years ago there were many like George Sherwood who thought the use of bogus arms on signet rings and writing paper and the stationers who provided them, a public disgrace. The problem was that genealogists could not agree amongst themselves, some saying that arms were ensigns of nobility, granted on ennoblement, which could not be adopted at will, whilst others argued that any man might adopt arms (without the intervention of the College of Arms) provided that they were not already in use by some other person. Bernard Burke's advertisement in the 1870s which asked for people to send in arms for his General Armory had not asked that any authority for the use of the arms or the date of their registration be quoted and Ashworth P. Burke's Family Records (1897) claimed that all the Arms shown were based on 'official authority' but in no case named the authority, it probably being thought that there would be a reluctance on the part of the families themselves, to say when their arms were first granted, if indeed that date were readily known [403].

The young lawyer Arthur Charles Fox-Davies, a grandson of John Fox, of Coalbrookdale [404], believed that in England arms should only be used by recipients of grants of arms from the College of Arms or by those whose ancestral right to arms had been recognised by the College. When twenty-two in 1893 he put out a prospectus for a book which was to publish ‘genuine and absolutely reliable information’ as to coats of arms ‘legitimately in use’ (and not, as he wrote in a further prospectus in 1894, the ‘bogus and maliciously corrupt insignia so often displayed’) and in 1895 he published the first of seven editions of Armorial Families in which the entries of those who could not provide evidence of their right to arms were printed in italics. These doubtful entries were removed from the 5th (1905) and subsequent editions, so that by his final 7th edition (2 vols. 1929-30), he could, with some truth, call it 'approximately complete' and say that 'there are few families [other than those of peers and baronets] entitled to arms, whose right has been proved in sufficiently modern times to place it beyond reasonable doubt, that are now omitted'. It was an approach which tended to give equal status to both old and new arms and on that and other accounts, in particular the weaknesses of Fox-Davies’s Complete Guide to Heraldry (1909), he was viciously ridiculed by Horace Round who thought all modern heraldry an absurd anomaly and who with Oswald Barron poured scorn on Fox-Davies’s and William Phillimore’s contention that heraldry was ’a living science’ [405]. Round went so far as to say that ‘a grant of arms is of no account because nobody values what ‘anyone’ can obtain’ [406], quoting with approval a remark of A. S. Ellis that ‘Tudor Heraldry is mostly rubbish and Modern Heraldry beneath contempt’ [407].

Fox-Davies’ death at the age of 57 in 1928 unfortunately brought an end to a very fine series of books and no further editions were produced. An obituary in The Times said that, 'It was for him not merely a labour of love, but an exciting form of sport, to hunt down and kill some picturesque dragon of genealogical imposture, to overthrow some cherished idol of family pride based on nothing more substantial than the vain imaginings of a recent ancestor or the artful tale of some flatterer possessed of a smattering of heraldry ... it was he who took the campaign against armorial pretence out of the austere pages of learned publications and brought it to the notice of the public at large' [408]. He had, however, annoyed a great number of people. Later that year an anonymous writer in The Genealogists Magazine who had perhaps displayed such an 'armorial pretence' referred to 'the pretentious ignorance' displayed in Fox-Davies's books [409]. The fierce arguments on the subject, at their height in 1900-4, have not altogether subsided in heraldic circles though Fox-Davies and William Phillimore have probably won the day.

Fortune seekers, next-of-kin agents, printed pedigrees

The last of Sherwood's strictures about 'old genealogy' had been 'the business of the shady character who ekes out a precarious existence on the reluctant half-crowns of deluded seekers after phantom fortunes'. Today 'next-of-kin' searching has become big business but in 1897 Walter Rye warned his readers against advertisements by which 'rogues try to rob poor people with specious tales of unclaimed stock', saying that, 'most of the statements they contain are absolute lies'. In his and his father's experiences, stretching back some sixty years, in which they had investigated many claims, not a single case had occurred from which anyone had in the least benefited. He gave an example of ‘the simple faith of a claimant’ in one Arthur Marsh, of Southampton, who had advertised for the address of the solicitor who held the property (now ‘in Chancery’) in Manchester and other places of one John Marsh, who had died about a hundred years previously, of which the Marsh family of Purbeck were believed to be the heirs. These types of claim had been questioned in the House of Commons in November 1888, when William Jackson, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, had said that the advertising agencies 'were simply misleading the public for the purpose of making profit for themselves and extracting money out of the pockets of poor persons' [410].

It has been suggested that following the end of the State lottery in 1825 and before the arrival of football pools, the most likely path to sudden riches about which ordinary people might dream was inheritance from an unknown relative [411]. English men (and widows and spinsters) have always had an unusual freedom in the disposal of their property by will and the nineteenth century novel regularly used unlikely inheritance or the sudden loss of 'expectations' as a theme. Samuel Warren in Ten thousand a year (1841), Charles Dickens in Bleak House (1852-3) and Little Dorrit (1855-7) and, later in the century, Wilkie Collins in a series of 'sensation' novels, are just a few of many examples. Claims to dormant peerages had been frequent in the 1830s, providing much work for the legal genealogists, and real life disputes about inheritance and estates were a commonplace, widely reported in the newspapers, the claims of Arthur Orton to be Roger Tichborne [412] and of Annie Druce to be the Duchess of Portland [413], attracting worldwide attention. Both may, as has been said, have been 'striking proof of the unfathomable depths of human credulity' but other stories about destroyed or forged entries in parish registers as with the Richard Harrison case in 1886 already described, or bogus tombstones as with the Tracy peerage claim in 1847, together with some interminable legal cases as, for example, those amongst the heirs of William Jermy of Bayfield in Norfolk (died 1751) and of William Jennens (died 1798),continually raised speculation and false hopes.

The Bank of England had published lists of unclaimed dividends for many years before similar lists of money in Chancery were first published in 1855 and then advertised in the London Gazette, but from the late 1830s onwards a growing number of commercial 'next-of-kin agents' began publishing lists of names taken from the little known official publications and from advertisements in newspapers. An Irishman, Frederick Henry Dougal (died 1904, aged 54), of Merton Road, Wandsworth, took over such a firm that had been established in 1844, and became particularly well known for several editions of Dougal's Index Register of Next of Kin, Heirs at Law, and cases of Unclaimed Money Advertisements, the last appearing in 1910. A case at the Old Bailey in January 1887 showed that from his office in the Strand he asked 1s 6d for the book and then £1 for a full copy of the advertisement mentioned. It seems likely that Edmund Robertson had Dougal’s agency in mind when he questioned William Jackson in the House of Commons in 1888. Dougal's 'next-of-kin' activities would have been known to George Sherwood with his office also in the Strand, but he may be better known today for his speculative purchase at auction of Aperfield Manor on part of Biggin Hill in Kent, and for the confusion that he later caused when he sold off the land in disorganised small plots in July 1895. Dougal was far from alone in the field. Robert Chambers and Edward Preston also produced lists over a long period and there were many others. The newspaper News of the World published a 214-page Missing Heirs and Next-of-Kin in 1911.

The extent to which some genealogists hyped up and orchestrated stories of unclaimed funds in order to extract money from prospective claimants, particularly those overseas, is uncertain, but these ‘shady characters’, as Sherwood called them, were not in short supply. The well-known James Coleman (died 1906, aged 88),for many years a dealer in documents, certainly did everything possible to publicise the so-called Jennens fortune for his own commercial advantage. Coleman, from Gloucestershire, was the son of a smith and had been a toolmaker in London since at least his first marriage in 1841 (when his wife was unable to sign her name). In 1851 he employed two young men in that trade but by 1861 he had set himself up as a genealogist and bookseller at 22 High Street, St Giles in the Fields, near the British Museum, starting an extensive trade in documents of every description which continued until his death in 1906, though he had moved out to 9 Tottenham Terrace, White Hart Lane, in the late 1870s. He was particularly well known for the pioneering and regular catalogue which he and his immediate successors published and George Sherwood later recalled the delight with which each issue was received, ‘notwithstanding the extraordinary blunders and misprints which often marred them’ [414]. The Society of Genealogists has a long, but not entirely complete, run bound in nine volumes, 1859-1911.

Coleman must have seen that another aspiring genealogist, Charles Bridger (1824-1879), of Witley in Surrey (the son of a draper formerly in Godalming High Street), had in the autumn of 1863 announced his intention to publish a bibliography of heraldry and genealogy and that he had, the following spring, also promised in Notes & Queries and in the Herald and Genealogist, to add to the bibliography an index to the pedigrees in county histories and other topographical works. Coleman realised how such a list could be exploited commercially and, not waiting for Bridger, rushed out Coleman's general index to printed pedigrees which are to be found in all the principal county and local histories & in many privately printed genealogies (1866), advertising in the book that he could provide copies of any pedigree listed, up to six generations, for five shillings plus six pence for each additional generation. The thwarted Charles Bridger then produced his An index to printed pedigrees contained in county and local histories, the heralds' visitations, and in the more important genealogical collections (1867; 10s 6d) containing 16,000 references and complaining in his Preface about the 'hastily prepared compilation of a similar nature' which had meanwhile appeared [415]. Bridger's projected bibliography, however, never saw publication. About this time he worked with a bank employee, Stephen Tucker (1835-1887), for Arthur Orton the ‘Tichborne Claimant’ whose case collapsed in 1872 and who was committed for perjury in 1874. When Tucker was appointed Rouge Croix at the College of Arms in 1872 he employed Bridger as a research assistant in his growing genealogical practice [416]. The 1871 Census shows him at a St Pancras lodging house, 'Geologist' (sic) [417]. Nine volumes of wills that Bridger had abstracted were purchased by the College of Arms in 1887 [418].

Bridger may have been put off publication of his projected works in 1863 by the publication that year by the industrious but extremely unpleasant John Camden Hotten (1832-1873) of A hand-book to the topography and family history of England and Wales: being a descriptive account of twenty thousand most curious and rare books (1863) which the Dictionary of National Biography calls his 'most laborious and least-known compilation'. It was in fact a misleading title for a 368-page catalogue of 7,659 items which were for sale in Hotten’s shop in Piccadilly. Hotten, the son of a carpenter and undertaker in Clerkenwell, had been apprenticed to an antiquarian bookseller in Chancery Lane but left for a spell as a journalist in America. Returning about 1853 and starting a bookselling and publishing business he acquired a fortune and an extremely unpleasant reputation as a purveyor of pornography (publishing books on phallic worship, aphrodisiacs, flagellation, etc.) as well as for his dubious deals and violent arguments, though his name is best known to genealogists as the compiler of the first list of emigrants to America which was published after his death (mentioned below). With his interest in illustrated books, historical facsimiles and popular antiquarian history, Hotten was well aware of the growing interest in genealogy and heraldry on both sides of the Atlantic and developed some skill in the use of material at the Public Record Office, undertaking genealogical research there as well as sometimes seeking out original documents for purchase which might be of interest to his clients or offering to obtain for them Grants of Arms from the College of Arms on a ten per cent commission basis. As Professor Simon Eliot says, Hotten not only provided comforting pedigrees for the socially uncertain or the defensively snobbish but he went on to serve snobbery and historical curiosity by offering ‘one comprehensive service, from the armorial cradle, as it were, to the gilded grave’ [419].

Hotten’s genealogical service began to form a significant part of his business and shortly after his death in 1873 his former chief clerk, Andrew Chatto, who had purchased the firm, in conjunction with a New York publisher, James W. Bouton, put out a prospectus for the ‘St James Heraldic Office’ under the management of the young Edward Albert Harrison (1843-1891) who had formerly managed Hotten’s Heraldic Department [420]. Harrison was basically an heraldic artist, but he was also the son of Arthur Prichard Harrison (died 1861) another heraldic artist who from 1830 onwards had published facsimiles of documents such as Magna Carta and the Rolls of Battle Abbey and Caerlaverock illustrated with arms. In 1852 Harrison senior had notably assisted the well-known dramatist and antiquary James Robinson Planché (1796-1880) with the numerous illustrations in his The Pursuivant of Arms: or Heraldry founded upon Facts.

James Coleman did not have all the market in old documents and a rival whose catalogues also contained short summaries of the material for sale, was Henry Gray (1850-1925). He was born at Rawtenstall in Lancashire and in 1881 was at 10 Maple Street, Cheetham, describing himself as an antiquarian bookseller [421], but by 1891 he had moved south to 39 Craven Park, Harlesden [422], and had a shop in Leicester Square [423]. By 1901, with the assistance of his two daughters, he was running a 'Genealogical Record Office' at Goldsmiths' Estate, East Acton [424]. He produced book bulletins yearly from at least 1899 to 1903 containing genealogy, topographical views, portraits and manuscripts, and at least one was later indexed into the Great Card Index of the Society of Genealogists.

Bridger and Coleman were not the only ones to see the value of the lists they compiled and the young barrister George William Marshall (1839-1905), the son of a banker with private means, had also meanwhile produced an 163-page Index to the pedigrees contained in the printed heralds' visitations (1866) which he saw as a companion volume to Sims's index to the manuscript ones published in 1849. His sales must have been affected by Bridger's book and the following year James Coleman, Bridger's rival, published a 70-page Catalogue of pedigrees hitherto unindexed (1867; 3s 6d) that Marshall seems to have compiled, though it does not bear his name [425].

James Coleman, who undertook general genealogical research as well as publishing and dealing in manuscripts, also had an eye to the American market and printed a Pedigree of William Penn (1871) as well as the registers of the chapel in Somerset House (1862) and part of the marriage registers of Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire (1880). Patrick Polden singles him out for criticism for his ruthless promotion of the Jennens claims which he must have known had no validity [426].

Another noteworthy firm of next-of-kin agents was founded by a Londoner, Constantine William De Bernardy (died 1886, aged 74), who in 1858 had published a 414-page De Bernardy's Index Register, for Next of Kin, Heirs at Law, Legatees, and of Unclaimed Property, in Great Britain, the Colonies, and on the Continent, from 1754 to 1856. He had a chequered career. When bankrupt in 1849 he was described as 'formerly of 46 Leicester Square, Middlesex, and of Putney, Surrey, and afterwards of Paris, France, but now of Rider's Hotel, Salisbury Square, Fleet Street, London, bill broker, money scrivener, commission agent, dealer and chapman' [427]. In 1873 he published at Philadelphia, The American's Hand-Book to Vienna and the Exhibition.

Going beyond the mere publishing of lists and the provision of advertisements, C. W. De Bernardy and his sons, who continued the business, began themselves to search for the heirs to the larger properties and to attempt to come to some financial arrangement with them. They produced an 83-page De Bernardy's Unclaimed Money Register (1883), for which they charged a shilling, but warned off the smaller fortune hunters by saying, 'They are nearly always poor or ignorant people, who are dazzled by the prospect of becoming suddenly rich, and are lured on until the exhaustion of their means puts an end to the investigation. But the dream remains as vivid as ever'. Two of these sons, Alfred De Bernardy (died 1922) and Augustus Kemeys De Bernardy (died 1931), continued the business at 28 John Street and 25 Bedford Row, as the 'De Bernardy Brothers, Legal Genealogists and Agents', until 1900, but another son, Lucien De Bernardy (died 1946),had withdrawn from the firm in 1884 [428]. George Sherwood certainly knew Alfred De Bernardy as he contributed to the first issue of Sherwood's The Pedigree Register in June 1907. Sometime after 1900 De Bernardy had gone into partnership with the young Henry William Sayers (1876-1962) and the latter, who had married Annie Lydia Checcucci (1877-1962) in 1907, took over the firm completely in 1909 [429]. Henry and Annie Sayers continued as 'legal genealogists' for many years and are mentioned below for their connection with Pallot & Co.

The activities of genealogists who acted as unclaimed money agents and probate searchers, some of whom were quite unscrupulous, gave rise to much criticism and for a very long time almost every aspect of the business was considered highly disreputable, as George Sherwood believed. These 'heir locators', working secretly at great speed and speculatively behind the scenes, claimed to provide a public service by bringing possible claims to the attention of persons who would not otherwise know about them, but they provided an absolute minimum of information about a claim (for fear that the claimant would circumvent them by going directly to the source of the funds) and would only do so on the strict understanding that one entered into an agreement to pay the locator a percentage of the fund. In the 1950's we called such heir locators 'ten per centers' but even then the charge was more often thirty and is now often forty per cent plus costs plus VAT. Such 'contingency fee agreements' are frequently criticised and may be judged illegal (as champerty) [430] if the locator agrees to finance a claimant's lawsuit in exchange for a portion of the amount involved.

In 1896 the De Bernardy Brothers came to an agreement with two beneficiaries of an estate about which they had obtained knowledge by which the two would pay the Brothers thirty per cent of anything recovered, but the De Bernardy Brothers had unwisely also agreed that they would take necessary steps to establish the claim, and the agreement was thus held to be void because it 'savoured of champerty' [431]. The Brothers avoided this problem in future by agreeing only to furnish details in return for a share in the property and the court upheld such an agreement in 1908 [432]. The 1896 ruling was held to be still good law by the Irish Supreme Court in 2003 [433].

The legal situation about ‘Unclaimed Monies’ was usefully set out by Malcolm Pinhorn in The Genealogist’s Magazine in 1959 [434] and the activities of the various firms involved, whom some considered ‘not true genealogists’, were a constant source of enquiry at the Society of Genealogists. A report in the Daily Mail in 1971 said that most of the firms admitted to anything up to a fifty per cent failure rate in the location of heirs and it cited one case in which the balance of an estate of £6,000 had to be divided between eighty heirs after the cost of 180 certificates and sixty interviews, as well as the firm’s thirty per cent, had been deducted [435]. 

However, the growing number of intestacy cases worldwide since the Second World War has given work to many genealogists, some still working on a percentage basis, though today it is argued that personal representatives such as solicitors acting as executors and trustee departments should not use those who will only work on commission as they may be breaching their duty to the other beneficiaries [436]. There are many genealogists who will gladly work on an hourly basis as I did when employed in such cases in the Research Department at the Society of Genealogists for many years and the firm Title Research (a firm which in 1994 had itself received unpleasant publicity when asking for 10% of a £3m estate [437]) has recently launched a campaign against the preposterous fees charged by those working on commission. This campaign has received a good deal of support from solicitors and deserves more [438].


The early books on surnames were concerned almost exclusively with their meanings and thus although of interest to genealogists and often quoted were not in themselves of practical value in tracing the histories of the families mentioned. The derivations which they provided were often deeply suspect and occasionally little more than guesswork. There were many others, but into this category fall English surnames and their place in the Teutonic family (London and Carlisle, 1858) by Robert Ferguson, presumably by the man of that name who had written The Northmen in Cumberland and Westmorland (1856) and who wrote The Teutonic name-system applied to the family names of France, England and Germany (London and Carlisle, 1864) and Surnames as a science (1883; 1884); Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom (1860) and English Surnames: an essay on family nomenclature, historical, etymological and humorous (4th ed. 2 vols. 1875) by Mark Antony Lower (1813-1876), a Sussex schoolmaster, also known for his Worthies of Sussex (1865) and Compendious History of Sussex (1870); English Surnames: their sources and significations (1873) by Revd Charles Wareing Endell Bardsley (1844-1898),Vicar of Ulverston, which went through several editions until 1906, and his A dictionary of English and Welsh surnames, with special American instances (1901);  British family names: their origins and meaning (2nd ed. 1903) by Henry Barber; Surnames of the United Kingdom (2 vols. 1912-18) by Henry Harrison; and A history of surnames of the British Isles (1931; additions, 1946) by Cecil Henry L’Estrange Ewen (1877-1949).

All these works concentrated on the meanings of the surnames but much genealogical work in the second half of the nineteenth century was centred on finding their distribution until Henry Brougham Guppy (1854-1926), a naval surgeon and botanist from Devon, compiled Homes of family names in Great Britain (1890), based on the listings of farmers in Kelly's county directories, farmers being 'the most stay-at-home class of the country' [439]. Although the book's value was dismissed by Oswald Knapp in 1930, the editors of the Oxford Names Companion have recently concluded that 'over half the surnames in Britain still have a statistically significant association with a particular locality, despite all the scattering of population that has taken place since the Industrial Revolution began two hundred years ago' [440].

Catalogues of Printed Pedigrees

The appearance of George Marshall's early composite indexes to printed pedigrees which became so important as basic bibliographies of work that had already been carried out and had been published somewhere or other, has been mentioned, he commencing in 1866 with an index to the pedigrees in the printed heraldic visitations and in 1867 with a short additional catalogue, printed by Coleman. The first edition of his The genealogist's guide to printed pedigrees: being a general search through genealogical, topographical, and biographical works relating to the United Kingdom was published in 1879. It was revised in 1885 when the range of works indicated by the subtitle was extended to include family histories, peerage claims, etc., and again in 1893. A final edition, intended for Christmas 1902 was a little delayed and was eventually available for a guinea from the Piccadilly bookseller, Bernard Quaritch, in 1903. The book was, as Quaritch himself rightly said in a flyer, 'absolutely indispensable to every genealogist'. Marshall's searches were remarkably comprehensive, though, as he unkindly remarked in his Preface, unlike George Gatfield's Guide to printed books, they did not take such a low range as to include Frederic T. Hall's The pedigree of the devil (1883)!

The surname Hall would have been very familiar to George Marshall as he had married in 1867, Alice Ruth, the younger daughter of the Revd Ambrose William Hall and when she died in 1870 he married (illegally, of course) her elder sister Caroline Emily (died 1891). Marshall was the author of Notes on the surname of Hall (Exeter, 1887). The family would have been appalled when during the unrest in 1931 their nephew Anthony William Hall claimed the Crown and told rallies that he was 'one of the British people's natural leaders' being a direct descendant of Henry VIII; he hoped to be the first policeman to cut off the King's head! He was arrested for quarrelsome and scandalous language, fined, and not heard from again.

George William Marshall died in September 1905 and it seems that his fellow herald, Eric Geijer at the College of Arms, was intent on continuing his bibliographical work. In earlier years when George Sherwood had listed recently printed pedigrees in his Genealogical Queries and Memoranda there had been no objection to his doing so, but when in May 1907 Gerald Fothergill announced in Notes & Queries that he was preparing a supplement to Marshall's Guide, objections about the copyright were immediately raised by Marshall's second son Isaac (1870-1916), a barrister. Marshall wrote that the book ‘was in the process of being kept up to date’ with a view to a new edition, but Fothergill was not put off and replied that he was merely collecting omissions from and additions to the published work [441].

All this did not deter the new Society of Genealogists in 1911 from setting up, and Gerald Fothergill from joining, a 'Committee on Cataloguing Pedigrees' which for a few years only collected references to supplement Marshall, its secretary being a Founder and Fellow, Campbell M. E. Wynne (died 1940). These brief references to the whereabouts of printed pedigrees sometimes proving unsatisfactory, in July 1912 his committee approved and printed a standard ‘Pedigree Analysis Form’ on which to summarise any available printed pedigree, sending sample copies to every member with the intention that the completed forms be filed in the Document Collection and indexed in the Consolidated Index [442]. It was noted in December that the appeal had had ‘a gratifying response’ [443] but in the year 1913 only eight books were completed though this was considered ‘good progress’ [444]. Geijer eventually handed his index references to John Beach Whitmore who, of course, had access to the Society’s collections, but as described below his supplement did not appear until half a century later.

Later Professionals

It is interesting that Nichols should have thought it right that all genealogical business, 'ought to come to the hands of the professional Heralds'. He had no particular axe to grind on that score and was not himself a member of the College of Arms. One wonders how many others thought in those terms.

Towards the end of the century Walter Rye provided a list of a dozen or so record agents and document transcribers then working at the Public Record Office of whom three or four were solicitors who would gather material for a 'record' case, and four or five were women [445]. He noted that their charges varied greatly and warned that the younger men who worked at a lower rate would take longer in their searches because they lacked the experience that would enable them to go straight to the records required. An indexer charged 7s 6d and upwards for a thousand references. Plain copies of documents, when the client supplied the references, were charged at 6d per folio of seventy-two words before 1600, and 4d per folio after that date.

To the names of those mentioned elsewhere, Rye added in 1888 and in 1897 those of A. F. Heintz and W. Boyd and, in 1881 only, W. H. Hart of Hammersmith. Arthur Frederick Heintz  (1854-1932) was the son of an average adjustor in Hampstead. He was a clerk in Ealing in 1881, a record agent in Paddington in 1891, a record agent and translator of ancient records at Reigate, Surrey in 1901 and a translator of ancient records at Sidcup, Kent in 1911. He died at Sydenham in 1932 leaving £160-9-11.

William Boyd was more frequently known as William Keown-Boyd and was the third son of a former M. P. for Downpatrick in Ireland. He acted as a record agent in Chelsea in 1891 and was at Archway Road, Highgate in 1911, working at the Record Office. At his death, aged 85, at Upholland Vicarage in 1938 he was described as a well-known historian [446]. He had edited the diary of Mr Justice Rokeby in 1887 and helped with the volumes of the Calendar of State Papers relating to Scotland. There are nine files of his notes at the National Archives. It may be noted that the majority of the private work and correspondence of similar agents has not survived, some record agents like Helen Thacker sending their original notes to their clients ‘to save errors in transcription’ as she would say.

William Henry Hart (1828-1888) was the son of a prosperous gunpowder maker at Deptford and trained as a solicitor but in 1852 he was one of the first searchers to be granted free access to do local research at the Public Record Office. He then became a record agent but in 1855 joined the Office as a clerk. In 1857 he was involved in an elaborate jape at a fellow clerk which was much disapproved of and in 1862 he requested leave to take a degree but was refused and given the task of editing the cartulary of St Peter, Gloucester for the Rolls Series. He resigned in 1869 and acted as a record agent in Kensington, but then over-actively canvassed for re-employment until reluctantly re-engaged on the cartulary of Romsey Abbey for the Rolls Series in 1882. He had become a Roman Catholic and in 1879 had married an actress less than half his age. His work did not go well and having broken his arm in a carriage accident and sustained losses from fraud at his bank, he died suddenly in 1888 [447].

Of the women named by Walter Rye, he warmly recommended Miss Walford. She was at 7 Hyde Park Mansions, Edgware Road, in 1888 and at 46 Great Coram Street in 1897, and he described her as 'probably the most accurate and rapid transcriber in the room'. This was Emma Mary Walford (1853-1907) who lodged at Great Coram Street in 1891 and described herself as a ‘literary author’ in 1901. She was a daughter of the thrice-married barrister Cornelius Walford, of Witham, Essex, and Enfield, Middlesex, a prolific writer on insurance and other matters and a relative of the compiler Edward Walford.

The other women named by Rye in 1888 and 1897 were Miss Rita Fox, Miss Collier, Mrs F. Grigson, Miss Hopper and Miss L. Toulmin Smith. Rita Fox, named only in 1888, was then at 1 Capel Terrace, Forest Gate. She had been born about 1866-7 the  last of nine children of a dental surgeon, Charles James Fox, who died in 1869, and although described as living on her own means in 1891 she had presumably been obliged to help her widowed mother who died in 1890. She contributed on various subjects to Notes and Queries between 1887 and 1899 and was a subscriber (from 64 Watling Street, E.C.) to the British Record Society in 1898, but any later involvement in record searching has not been found. She seems to have married Joseph Walter Russell, much her senior, in 1903 and to have died in London in 1930.

Rye gives Miss Collier’s address in both years as 83 Charterhouse Street and she must be related to William Walter Collier (1848-1898) who for many years kept a coffeehouse at 83-85 Charterhouse Street facing Smithfield meat market. He was born at Coventry, married three times, became a Freeman of the City in 1881 and went bankrupt in 1886, but who ‘Miss Collier’ was is not clear unless this is his eldest child, Ellen Eliza, born in 1868, but she had married at Stroud Green in 1890 [448]. Rye had classed her merely as a transcriber in 1888.

Mrs F. Grigson of 45 Alma Square, St John’s Wood, is evidently Anna (nee Allsebrook) the widow of Francis Grigson (1852-1886). He was a son of the Revd William Grigson, Rector of Whinburgh, Norfolk, and before his early death at Alma Square in 1886 he had described himself as a ‘professional antiquarian’ though when eighteen in 1871 he was a clerk to a wine merchant at Thetford. She was the daughter of a prosperous master tanner at Worthing, Norfolk, but just prior to her marriage in 1881 was a ‘lady companion’ at Clapham. Perhaps Rye’s information was a little out of date for she seems to have left England before 1891 and by 1911 was living at Durban, Natal [449].

Miss Hopper’s address is given by Rye as 9 Cato Road, Brixton, in 1888 (when she was classed as a transcriber),and as 22 Plater Road, Brixton, in 1897, evidently mistakes for 22 Plato Road, and the home from at least 1881 of Helen (died 1916, aged 91), the widow of Clarence Hopper (1817-1868), a palaeographer and antiquary originally from Savernake in Wiltshire whose genealogical collections are in the British Library and who collected transcripts of records for a history of the Channel Islands. His edition of the London Chronicle during the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII was published by the Camden Society in 1859. Helen is described in the census as living on her own means but the occupations of her daughters are not given [450].

Lucy Toulmin Smith (1838-1911) was a daughter of the constitutional lawyer Joshua Toulmin Smith (1816-1869) and both find a place in the Dictionary of National Biography. Her first major work in original records was the finishing of her father’s English Gilds (1870) and was followed by several volumes for the Camden Society and the New Shakspere Society, and then the editing of Leland’s Itinerary (5 vols. 1906-10). She had been concerned that her name should not ‘go with every Tom, Dick & Harry’ [451] and in 1894 she had moved to Oxford to take up the post of librarian at Manchester College, so she does not appear in the second edition of Rye’s book.

Rye’s information is sometimes a little out of date but the uncertain amount of work coming to some of these ladies is clear. Another searcher of the period who appears in the census as merely living on her own means, was Vernona Thomas Christian Smith (nee Torry; died 1902, aged 73) who lived at Barnes and was the Scottish born widow of a Royal Navy officer Richard Sidney Smith (died 1880) who had served in the West Indies [452]. She herself had Barbadian ancestry and somehow she met and worked for some years (as the great bulk of her surviving manuscripts, mentioned below, testifies) for Vere Langford Oliver (1861-1942), of Weymouth, the compiler of a magnificent History of Antigua (1894) and later the editor from 1909 of the journal Caribbeana. By the end of the century the more commercially organised record agents Ethel Stokes and Mary Louise Cox (described later) had become active but the majority of such agents remained, and perhaps still remain, largely without advanced education or specialised training. In 1897 Rye issued an explicit warning to gullible rich Armericans ‘in their anxiety for pedigrees’ against the activities of some unscrupulous advertising record agents [453].

There were a very few women local historians in the provinces but better known in London was the group of scholarly women that developed at the end of the nineteenth century, centred at the Public Record Office and British Library, and mostly involved in transcribing documents and writing parish histories for the Victoria County History (VCH) which commenced publication in 1899. Five years later the Secretary to the Public Record Office deemed the VCH’s numerous women searchers there ‘a great inconvenience to the general public’ [454]. In 1905 there were twenty-two of them and Horace Round wrote disparagingly to the VCH’s general editor, ‘I would like to teach your 22 girls some topography, were it not that, I reckon, as we say in Essex, “they’re wunnerful plain”’. Two years later he again wrote ‘plain, plodding work that is all that you can expect from the girls’ [455]. These ‘girls’ did their hack work mainly from printed calendars and manuscript lists in London and were not expected to visit the parishes and unpleasant Round, though a tireless promoter of the VCH, could thus sneer at a system of which he disapproved by saying of someone like the competent Norah Niemeyer, subsequently a lecturer at Goldsmith’s College, that her draft parish histories ‘might have been written in Berlin with the aid of a map’ [456].

Fifteen of these young ladies were involved in the writing of the four VCH volumes for Hertfordshire (1902-14), the first county to be completed, mostly in connection with the general descriptions of parishes and the manorial descents. Two of them had university degrees, two had the History Tripos and two had been through the Oxford Honours School of Modern History; none were married. They included Lilian Redstone (1885-1955) of Woodbridge, ‘record agent own account’ in 1911 [457], who also wrote accounts of some thirty-three parishes in Suffolk that were never published and who much later founded the record offices of West and East Suffolk [458]. Others involved in the Hertfordshire volumes included Olive Moger (1880-1961) who in 1911 said that she was a ‘Topographer’ for the VCH [459] and was later well-known for her record agency work in Devonshire (compiling 22 valuable volumes of abstracts of the Devonshire wills the originals of which were later destroyed in the War), and Minnie Reddan (1870-1952),the daughter of a draper at Hampstead, who in 1911 gave no occupation at all [460], although she had contributed the large sections on religious houses to the History. Eleanor J. B. Reid (1874-1954), one of the two graduates, was in 1911 a ‘Teacher & Historical Research Student’ [461] and was the daughter of Sir Thomas Wemyss Reid, a well-known journalist and biographer.

Most of these ladies left the VCH during its financial difficulties in 1908 and although most had written accounts of the descents of manors for the History, none was involved in the foundation of the Society of Genealogists. When the Society was founded it came onto a scene that, from a professional point of view, was completely unregulated. The number of genealogists, record agents and record searchers who said that they were such in the 1911 census of England and Wales was sixty-two [462]. There was some overlap in the three categories and several ‘record agents’ were actually gramophone record salesmen. The great majority were in the immediate London area but the few in other parts of the country were Raymond Tinne Berthon at Selsey, James Cronyn Burrows on the Isle of Wight, Robert Beilby Cook at York, Joseph Joshua Green at Hastings, David Henry Hartopp at Leicester, Arthur Hill in the New Forest, Frederic Johnson at Norwich, William Clement Kendall an ‘Artist & Genealogist’ at Kirkby Lonsdale and Philip Hugh Lawson an ‘Architect’s Assistant & Genealogist’ at Chester. Most were working on their own account but several record searchers (Henry Badger, Alfred Baker, Henry Greaves, Frederick William Ludwell and Thomas Henry Reeks) worked for the General Register Office. William Cartwright was a ‘Record Searcher (private enquiry agent)’. Kate Corner, Mary Salmon, Ethel Thompson and Frederick Walford were literary searchers, Herbert Sayers was a ‘Genealogist & Journalist’ and Percival Lucas an ‘Antiquarian Author & Record Agent’. Margaret Mackay mentioned publishing, George Minns literature and music. Kathleen Thompson said she worked at the Public Record Office and Edith Moodie worked for the ‘American Library and Literary Agency’. Leonard Barnard was a ‘Genealogist & Heraldic Draughtsman’. John Byron Davies was a genealogist aged 74, but two had retired (Harry Clench aged 67, William Selby aged 73) and Mary Louisa Brodnax (nee Dalton), born in Alabama in 1836, had come as a genealogist from Manhattan to work in the Library at the British Museum and was staying in a hotel in Bedford Place. The youngest, Harry Edward Lloyd, aged 14, the son of a compositor at Tottenham, was a ‘Genealogist’s Office Boy’. The remainder described themselves simply as genealogists (twenty altogether, three with private means) or record agents and searchers. Of the sixty-two only sixteen were women and only eight of the total had joined the newly formed Society of Genealogists when the membership list was printed in 1913; they were James Burrows of Bushey, Gerald Fothergill of Wandsworth, William Clement Kendall of Lancaster, Ernest Kirk in Chancery Lane, Philip Lawson of Chester, George Minns of Norwich, Edgar Powell of Reading and George Sherwood of Brockley.

A record searcher in the London area who seems to have led something of a double life was John Robert Hutchinson (1858-1924), named below for his work on migrants, but who was also the author of several adventure books for boys [463]. He had been born in Nova Scotia the son of a master mariner and married there in 1878, having a son in 1881. The family lived for a time in India but he deserted his wife and child in 1890 [464]. At Camberwell in 1891, ‘author’, he was seemingly living with a young woman and their three month old daughter [465], but in 1895 he married as a bachelor at Pancras Register Office one Mary Blanche Shelley by whom he had four children. They were at Clacton, Essex, in 1901 when he said that he was a bookseller and born at Hull, but she divorced him for adultery and cruelty in 1909-10 [466]. She said then that he had a place of business at 11 Clifford’s Inn off Fleet Street. By the time of the 1911 census she was with the four children at 35 Cromwell Avenue, Hammersmith and herself working as a record agent; she died at Lambeth in 1929, aged 60. He had quickly married again at Croydon in 1910 and then moved to Joy Street, Barnstaple, Devon, where he traded as a ‘polished and genial’ bookseller until his death in 1924 [467]. One of his children had been born at Southwold, Suffolk, in 1897, and perhaps whilst in that area he had compiled two large typed volumes of ‘East Anglian Marriages’ (containing about 30,000 entries) which the Society of Genealogists bought in 1919, George Sherwood noting that they came from J. R. Hutchinson of Clifford’s Inn. Other Suffolk material acquired at that time may have come from the same source [468].

One record searcher who escaped the 1911 statistics [469] by describing himself as a ‘Writer for the Press & Record Searcher’ was Robert Westland Marston, the son of Charles Henry Marston a physician, who was born at Devizes in 1866 and was at 37 Millman Street, Holborn, a journalist, in 1901. In 1911 he was boarding with a carpenter at 79 Wood Street, Barnet. Reginald Hine, the historian of Hitchin in Hertfordshire, wrote that Marston ‘could find everything I wanted’ but refused to meet him. Hine could not understand why until Marston was pointed out at the Record Office and Hine, who described him in detail but did not give his name, was mesmerised by ‘the ugliest man I have ever seen’. He lived in great poverty, giving the little he earned to the Children’s Hospital, and died at Croydon in 1930. George Sherwood remembered seeing him last in May 1914 when he was apparently caring for an older woman, perhaps his sister Selina [470].

Although some of the Society’s founders recognised the need for a list of recommended searchers other than that provided by the Public Record Office, it was a long time before a regularly produced list emerged, though the membership list printed in the Society’s Annual Report for 1912 has fourteen persons marked as undertaking professional research. None were women.


The first textbook on the subject, Stacey Grimaldi's expensive but wide-ranging 342-page Origines Genealogicae (1828) has been mentioned. It was basically a collection of references to evidences for proving pedigrees and as the title page says, was 'Published expressly for the assistance of claimants to hereditary titles, honours, or estates'. Some 250 copies were printed and it sold for three guineas. Each record group dealt with was followed by a note on its ‘Genealogical Utility’ with examples of use in previous claims.

In the 1850s Richard Sims, working in the Department of Manuscripts at the British Museum saw a need for a book with a wider approach. As he wrote in his Preface, 'the knowledge of what had already been done for Genealogy might be more diffused; the riches of the valuable libraries in different parts of the kingdom rendered more available; and the students' labours greatly lightened, by a judicious concentration of memoranda, drawn from the best sources, and accompanied by carefully selected lists of books of reference'. It was fitting that he should dedicate his work to Grimaldi on whose 'legal and antiquarian' knowledge he had extensively drawn but his resulting work, known to many as 'Sims' Manual', aimed at the wider market, shows a remarkable and detailed awareness of the sources available at that time.

George 'Richard' Sims (1816-1898) was born at Abingdon, the son of an accountant at Wadham College, Oxford, and had been appointed to the staff of the British Museum Library in May 1841. He married at Paddington in 1846 and the couple lived close by the Museum but they had no children. Richard Sims had mastered several languages, ancient and modern, and was an expert palaeographer. In response to the growing number of genealogical enquiries received in the Department of Manuscripts he produced in 1849 the standard An index to pedigrees and arms contained in the heralds' visitations and other genealogical manuscripts in the British Museum and then compiled a Handbook to the library of the British Museum, &c, with some account of the principal libraries in London (1854). Two years later the bookseller John Russell Smith in Soho Square published the first edition of Sims's A manual for the genealogist, topographer, antiquary, and legal professor, consisting of descriptions of public records; parochial and other registers; wills, county and family histories; heraldic collections in public libraries, etc. etc. (1856),a second edition of which in over 500 pages, at fifteen shillings, came out in 1861 and another in 1888. Sims was described by a colleague in the Library as 'a living index to the treasures around him' whose industry and intelligence made him 'one of the most useful members of the Museum Staff' [471]. He has since gained some note because he considered the damaging letters of Madame Blavatsky (the founder of the Theosophical Society) to the Coulombs genuine [472]. He worked at the Library until he retired to live at Oxford in 1887.

One should perhaps mention here the remarkable compilation by George Gatfield (1832-1901) of a 646-page Guide to printed books and manuscripts relating to English and foreign heraldry and genealogy being a classified catalogue of works of those branches of literature (1892) with large sections by surname and on overseas countries, presumably all taken directly from the Library catalogue of the British Museum where he too had been an attendant since at least 1861. He was the son of a blacksmith at Hanworth in Middlesex and his son Charles later worked at the Public Record Office [473].

A solicitor-antiquary with a brilliant mind was William Phillimore Watts Phillimore (1853-1913), the son of the superintendent of a lunatic asylum at Nottingham who had, perhaps not surprisingly, changed his name from Dr Stiff to Dr Phillimore in 1873. Phillimore had published his first book on the church bells of Nottinghamshire whilst a student at Oxford and left the university with degrees in jurisprudence and civil law but devoted his life to genealogy and the preservation of records. He was greatly influenced by Francis Galton's Hereditary Genius (1869) and believed firmly in an aristocracy of blood or race, as his influential and popular How to write the history of a family (1887, 1888 and 1900) makes clear [474]. Phillimore's book, however, took a quite different approach from that of other manuals, dealing perhaps for the first time with questions of the meaning, relative frequency and distribution of surnames, the layout of the proposed book and its pedigrees (citing good American examples), typography and illustrations, and discussing portraiture and, as a committed eugenicist, anthropometry, recommending the regular measurement and photography (both full and side views!) of all ones family members. Phillimore also laid great stress on 'the duty of giving proof for every assertion made'. Lack of attention to this point, he says, had brought discredit to the study and it was now recognised that an inaccurate pedigree or one falsely seeking, as he put it, to join 'new men to old acres', only brought a family into contempt [475]. His passionate interest is shown in his comment, ‘Monuments and tombstones perish, but he who has written and printed a truthful history of his ancestors has raised for them a memorial more lasting than brass or stone’ [476].

In 1888, Phillimore, way ahead of his time, commenced a campaign for the creation of local authority record offices in each county or group of counties, into which parish registers, probate and ‘all provincial public records’ more than 50-60 years old might be deposited. He wrote at length to The Times in October 1888 suggesting that such an office should be styled 'The County Record Office' and made subject to the supervision of travelling record-inspectors from the Public Record Office. He was entirely against the centralised deposit of such material in London though ‘by a limited number of students it might be highly appreciated’ [477].

In 1896-7 he had played a prominent part in unmasking the 'Great Shipway Pedigree Fraud' in which many records, including parish registers and wills, had been tampered with by a bogus 'Dr' Herbert Davies and in 1898 he published an account of Davies's subsequent trial and conviction for it had, as he wrote, 'so important a bearing upon the safe custody of parish registers, wills and other public documents'. He used the story to show that 'our records are mostly in a very inefficient custody' and to again urge the foundation of county record offices [478].

Herbert Davies, without any particular antiquarian knowledge and quite unused to genealogical investigation had, at the age of 22 in 1895, been recommended to Colonel Robert Shipway (1841-1928), of Grove House, Chiswick [479], for the purpose of some ancestral research in Gloucestershire. Davies, calling himself a doctor and using an Oxford degree that had been awarded to another of the same name, claimed to have studied medicine at Heidelberg but apparently left without taking a degree [480]. Engaged by Shipway for six shillings a day plus expenses, Davies immediately embarked on an elaborate and lengthy scheme of imposture, providing an old silver watch falsely engraved which he said had belonged to the Shipway family and then an armorial seal with a similar story ‘verified’ with a bogus statutory declaration. He gained access to the Mangotsfield parish registers (improperly kept in the vicarage and on one occasion left open in the sun) and interpolated therein six Shipway entries, one a burial in 1625 mentioning the same arms. He excavated the churchyard and finding a lead coffin had it engraved with the name Shipway. During its removal a labourer was injured and shortly afterwards died. He carried out a similar excavation inside the church and finding two effigies identified them (on a screen with appropriate brass plates) as relating to Shipway ancestors, placing the name also on a shield from the Blount family monument, carving it into a beam in the belfry, and having Shipway initials engraved on the hasp of an old church chest which he induced the vicar to give to the Colonel. The herald Arthur Scott Gatty then told Colonel Shipway that he could find no record of any Shipway arms at the College of Arms and that further sources such as wills should be consulted. Davies thereupon turned his attention to the wills at Gloucester. There he was able to remove a will of 1547, clean off much of its surface and use the parchment to give new wording which included mention of a grant of Shipway arms in 1192 (sic !) and then to replace it in the files at the Probate Registry. In the Registry at Hereford he inserted a spurious will of 1524 and at that at Worcester he inserted spurious wills for 1490 and 1537. All the wills gave most extraordinary details of the family and all were verified with certificates provided by the office officials. Colonel Shipway’s solicitors were informed at each step of the search but raised no queries. However, the Colonel, pleased with his new found ancestry (which had cost him £683 in fees and expenses), showed the wills to William Phillimore, a neighbour at Chiswick. The latter went quickly to inspect the originals and the registers and found his suspicions well confirmed. However, the Colonel’s solicitors, having received a favourable report on Davies’s work from Francis Bridges Bickley (1851-1905) an Assistant in the Department of Manuscripts at the British Museum [481], raised strong objections to Phillimore’s conclusions and the latter was obliged to take up the matter with the President of the Probate Division, Sir Francis Jeune. Following detailed enquiries, the Director of Public Prosecutions took action in September 1897 and the case went to the Old Bailey where Davies pleaded guilty to obtaining money by false pretences and on 23 November 1898 was sentenced to three years penal servitude. Two days into the preliminary hearing and describing himself as a doctor of medicine Davies had married Linda Camilla Payne at Christchurch. In 1901 he was a Private in the Royal Army Medical Corps but by 1911 he was a draper’s manager in Brixton where he lived until after his wife’s death in 1918. Their only child, Kenneth, born in June 1898, served for a time as a surgeon at Guy’s Hospital.

Almost every aspect of this extraordinary case had caused Phillimore concern and his account spares none of the parties involved. The unfortunate Colonel Shipway had been reluctant to be involved in legal action and, it was said, ‘cut an undeniably comic figure in the hands of the suburban doctor’. The Pall Mall Gazette thought that he might ‘console himself with the reflection that many lineages provided for brand-new notabilities are quite as dubious’ as the ‘silly mistakes’ perpetrated by Davies, ‘a quarter-educated scoundrel’ [482].

Others took Phillimore’s concerns and ideas about county record offices much more seriously and they were strongly supported by the Congress of Archaeological Societies. In July 1899 the Congress resolved to ask the Government to appoint a Royal Commission to look into the matter and a strong group of concerned people, including Viscount Dillon, President of the Society of Antquaries, the Duke of Northumberland, the bishops of London and Oxford, Sir Henry Howorth, Horace Round, Laurence Gomme, Edward Alexander Fry and William Phillimore, agreed to form a deputation to the Prime Minister, but the latter was ‘unable to receive’ them and the Congress’s Report was referred instead to a Committee on the Preservation of Local Records appointed by the Treasury [483].

The Report, which had been adopted at a Special Congress held on 28 March 1900 and confirmed at the Annual Congress of the forty societies in union held at Burlington House on 11 July 1900 under the Presidency of the industrialist and archaeologist, Sir John Evans (1823-1908), recommended that legislation be passed to allow, but not compel, the deposit in county record offices of parish registers and other ecclesiastical records, the acceptance therein of court rolls and other papers in private custody and the making of the records available for inspection by students. It thought that the PRO should also unload on local county record offices 'all such documents now in the Public Record Office as in the opinion of the Office ought to be preserved in the localities to which they refer' and that it was 'of the utmost importance that none but properly qualified custodians should be appointed'. It also thought that it would be most undesirable for these offices to have any connection with public libraries, for 'the most competent of Librarians may not necessarily possess the qualifications of a custodian of Records'.

The only 'local' record office in existence at this time was the Guildhall Library in London which in 1899 had begun to take in the vestry minute books and churchwardens' accounts of various City parishes (but not the parish registers) as a result of a circular letter addressed to the Vestries by the brush maker and amateur historian James George White (1837-1906), then Deputy of the Ward of Walbrook to the Court of Common Council [484]. After the 1900 Conference its President, Sir John Evans, who was also Chairman of the local Records Committee for Hertfordshire returned to the County and built an air conditioned repository to house its records (costing £1,016), which opened in 1909 [485]. These were important developments along a most tortuous path.

Phillimore’s views were not shared by all genealogists and in 1911 George Sherwood wrote, when remarking on the sale of a further batch of the manuscripts collected by Sir Thomas Phillipps, ‘We do not altogether share the generally expressed opinion that such manuscripts should be all stored away in public libraries. It is better that the originals should be studied, used, enjoyed and passed from hand to hand, but we think that the information they contain should be preserved in print. Let our museums cease to buy, and spend the money instead in printing, cataloguing and indexing; they are crammed already with material more or less inaccessible, and which is, in consequence, imperfectly studied, used or understood’ [486].

Phillimore was, in fact, doing more than his fair share of this work. In 1888 he sought for the first time to provide, not full transcripts, but printed indexes to a variety of public records, issuing monthly instalments of several indexes at once, in a series called the Index Library. In this he had the active co-operation of Walford Selby, the respected superintendent of the Literary Search room at the PRO who was also editor of The Genealogist, and the financial backing of a legal publisher, Charles Clark. After Selby’s untimely death in 1889, Phillimore, in order to secure a stable number of subscribers, was instrumental in forming the British Record Society to carry the Index Library forward, becoming its first Secretary and remaining General Editor of its publications until 1893 [487].

Phillimore also initiated the Scottish Record Series in 1896, the Thoroton Society in 1897, and the Canterbury and York Society in 1904. However, he is undoubtedly best known to genealogists for the great series of printed marriage registers, produced by the firm he founded in Chancery Lane, Phillimore & Co, which from 1897 issued in some counties, with much voluntary assistance, two volumes yearly. One hundred and fifty copies of each were usually printed to sell at 10s 6d each.

Phillimore himself was not altogether a sympathetic character. Although a keen cyclist [488] he has been described as 'a cadaverous figure, six feet of skin and bone with long hair, a long forked beard and heavy lidded myopic eyes; a strict vegetarian and teetotaller' [489]. He was a prodigious writer, producing in addition to the above books, several family histories and other works including, with Edward Alexander Fry, the standard An index to changes of name, 1760 to 1901 (1905). In 1900 he wrote a brief handbook with basic information for beginners, Pedigree Work (1900),costing a shilling, which was revised by Thomas Blagg in 1914 and then again by Bower Marsh for publication in 1936 (3s 6d). Phillimore died at Torquay in 1913; his will expressed a sadly unrealised hope that his only son would preserve his papers. Unknown to him the first county record office was being established that year at Bedford.

Another solicitor-antiquary Walter Rye (1843-1929), already mentioned for his outspoken views on the deposit of early parish registers, was the son of a Chelsea solicitor and himself pursued a legal career (commencing in his father's office at the age of fourteen) in Wandsworth, Croydon and Putney before moving in 1900 to Norwich where he was Mayor in 1908. He was a prolific and indefatigable writer (of some 152 articles and 117 pamphlets and books) and a collector of Norfolk items, who after working for twenty-five years in London archives, wrote Records and record searching (1888; 2nd ed. 1897) [490], the first edition of which came out in the same year as Phillimore's How to write the history of a family. No two books on the same subject could be more dissimilar. It has been said that Rye was 'a long-distance runner, which perhaps accounts for his haste, and a controversialist, that perhaps accounts for his inaccuracies' [491] but his poorly organised work contains much useful matter as well as several asides that will have caused great annoyance to some of his contemporaries. However, the book shows that Rye, who did not work as a record agent but was a full-time solicitor whose research took him frequently to the archives, knew well the practical problems involved and noted, for instance, that the early closing (at 2 pm) on Saturdays at the Public Record Office 'is very hard on those who are engaged all the week, and whose only spare time is the Saturday half-holiday', a complaint that was heard for many more years yet to come.

Walter Rye's book, like that by William Phillimore, gives several credits for assistance to Edward Alexander Mercy Fry (1853-1934), then of Edgbaston, already mentioned as the Secretary of the newly formed Parish Register Society and particularly active as the secretary of the British Record Society. For the latter Society's Index Library Fry edited some nineteen volumes between 1896 and 1915. He is described in the census returns, 1881-1901, as a Brazilian merchant but he can have had little time for his business. In 1901 he edited a volume of Wiltshire inquisitions post mortem with George Samuel Fry, CBE (1853-1938),latterly of Hove, who worked at the Board of Trade. There does not seem to be any reason for supposing that they were closely related [492]. George Fry also edited three other Index Library volumes and is known for his calendars and abstracts of Dorset wills and a large collection of Fry family material at the Society of Genealogists of which he was an early, though not a founder, member.

James 'Henry' Lea (1846-1914) of Freeport, Maine, mentioned below, was one of the American researchers sponsored to work in England by the New England Society. In 1904 he had compiled Abstracts of wills, Register 'Soame', 1620 and two years later he produced Genealogical research in England, Scotland and Ireland: a handbook for the student (1906). The short book, drafts of which had earlier appeared in The New England Register, was aimed mainly at the American market, detailing a search for emigrant origins through probate material, and would have been extremely daunting to an overseas visitor, though a useful reference.

H. A. Crofton's How to trace a pedigree (London, 1911; 2nd ed. 1924) was a slight and very general book in a little series of ‘How to’ books ‘For the bibliophile and book-lover’ published at two shillings. I mention it here because it came out in the same year as the Society of Genealogists was founded and, unusually, was written by a woman, though this is not revealed in the book itself where only her initials appear. She was Helen Augusta Maria Crofton an Irish lady who had earlier been inspired by her aunt, Adelia Margery West (nee Slacke, died 1901), to write the little Records of the Slacke family of Ireland (1902) and thus had some personal experience of work at the Registry of Deeds in Dublin. She died at Lisburn, co. Antrim, in 1919, aged 61.

American interest

The descendants of families that have emigrated overseas, in the third generation or perhaps after about a hundred years, frequently turn their minds to their emigrant forebears and their ancestries in the 'home country' and Anthony Wagner noted that such enquiries had been made of the heralds in England from families in America since the seventeenth century. It was unfortunate, therefore, that the petition of Garter King of Arms, Sir Edward Walker (died 1677), for a commission to make an heraldic visitation of the American plantations in the 1660s had been unsuccessful [493]. A later Garter, Sir Isaac Heard (1730-1822), had personal connections in America and took a special interest in American families [494], corresponding at some length in the 1790s, as we now know, with George Washington about the latter’s ancestry and arms.

Historical societies were founded in America in the late eighteenth century, the first in Massachusetts in 1791, and the secretary of that in New Hampshire, John Farmer (1789-1838), published the ground breaking A genealogical register of the first settlers on New England (1829). The better known A genealogical dictionary of the first settlers of New England by James Savage (1784-1873) came out in four volumes in 1860-62. The intervening years saw the foundation in Boston of the New England Historic Genealogical Society in 1845 and the commencement of its quarterly New England Historical and Genealogical Register, generally known as the Register, in 1847.

Americans seeking their roots and 'lost fortunes' in the British Isles had thus been a commonplace of the genealogical scene in London and elsewhere for some years. Wilford Woodruff (1807-1898), a miller by trade and latterly President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, did research on his Woodruff ancestry whilst on missions in London in 1840 and 1846 [495]. In 1845 an early member of the New England society, Horatio Gates Somerby (1805-1872), came to England and spent much of the rest of his life here trying to trace the origins of early American settlers, though 'Unhappily he sometimes provided an ancestry for a generous client that later research has failed to verify’ [496]. Indeed, by the 1880s many of his rich clients’ pedigrees were found to be fraudulent [497].

An uncritical approach, coupled with a lack of knowledge of the social background and geography of the British Isles, has made much early (and not a little contemporary) work of this kind by overseas visitors of little value and the false assumptions of early searchers have frequently bedevilled all subsequent attempts to set the record straight. Similarities of name and date, particularly where early migrants are concerned, have seduced many an American into the adoption of false ancestries here, a frequent pitfall for the uninstructed and uncritical beginner in this field, as much then as it is now.

A critical approach was hardly known amongst amateur genealogists in England, let alone amongst its visitors, and there were plenty who would pander to the desires of distant Americans and provide spurious material. The Latter-Day Saints, with desires founded in religion, were easy prey. Perhaps because of this they eventually sought out trusted members of their Church in England to carry out research for other members and the main American societies took to sending over competent searchers of known integrity to explore likely material for emigrant origins. One unscrupulous ‘professional’, William Paver (1802-1871), who had been dismissed from his position in the Probate Registry at York for inserting fabricated wills amongst those proved there, obtained the position of Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths at York, and he and his son, both industrious professionals, conducted a wide correspondence, particularly in America where in 1857 the New England Society published a list of the Yorkshire pedigrees he had available for sale at a dollar a generation [498]. It is possible, however, that Paver’s fabrications, like those of many other genealogists, related mainly to his own ancestry.

Richard Sims remarked in 1861 on ‘the increasing interest displayed by our brethren across the Atlantic in whatever relates to family history and their connection with the old country’ and was amongst the first to draw attention to their labours as of possible interest to genealogists in England, printing lists of the English pedigrees that had already appeared in the first eight volumes of the New England Register, of American local histories containing genealogies, and of the many individual family histories that had been published in America, the first noted being Joseph Sharpless’s Family Record of the Sharples family published at Philadelphia in 1816 [499].

Horatio Somerby was followed to England by Joseph Lemuel Chester (1821-1882), a man of a completely different calibre where genealogy was concerned. Chester was a poet, temperance lecturer, miscellaneous writer and journalist, originally from Norwich, Connecticut, who rose to be a member of the city council of Philadelphia and, although without military service, was given the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, which he always used. He first came to England in 1858 and settled with an English 'wife', Georgiana George (though I have not traced their marriage), in Finsbury, later moving to Bermondsey where he remained until his death [500]. What led him to historical work is not clear but he began to undertake searches in London for clients in America and in 1861 published an account of John Rogers (1505-1555) the Marian proto-martyr from whom his family had, incorrectly as he showed, claimed descent. The next year he obtained permission to search without charge the pre-1700 probate records then at Doctors' Commons where he specialised in the origins of early American settlers. His major works include some 87 large volumes of extracts from parish registers and church notes by county (given to the College of Arms by his executor George Edward Cokayne), a complete transcript of the matriculation register of Oxford University where he received an honorary degree (the register being edited and published in eight volumes by Joseph Foster in 1887-92), extensive extracts from the Bishop of London's marriage licence allegations (also edited by Joseph Foster in 1887), and a splendidly annotated edition of the baptismal, marriage and burial registers of Westminster Abbey (printed in 1876) [501]. Colonel Chester was one of the founders of the Harleian Society and contributed transcripts of several London registers to its published series as well as, with Joseph Jackson Howard, an edition of the Visitation of London 1633-5 (2 vols. 1880-3). His biography in the old Dictionary of National Biography says that when he died in 1882, 'he had no superior as a genealogist amongst English-speaking people'. He is the only genealogist to have a memorial (in the south aisle of the nave) in Westminster Abbey.

In his early days in England Chester employed as a secretary one Harriet Ann Bainbridge (1829-1908), the daughter of a banker in Euston Square, ‘of the ancient house of Bainbridge of Westmoreland, settled there before the Conquest’, or so she claimed [502], whom he recommended to others. Later working on her own account he found that she was confusing, falsifying, and forging records for clients, and he forced her to give up genealogical work. She had, in 1872, married a clerk in the War Office, William John Salis or De Salis, and subsequently became a prolific writer of cookery books [503].

Meanwhile, the London bookseller and publisher John Camden Hotten, who (as noted above) when young had lived for eight years in America and maintained a close connection with the American market, had compiled the first edition of his Original lists of persons of quality, emigrants, religious exiles, political rebels ... and others who went from Great Britain to the American plantations (1874), a book, the first of its kind, which went through several editions. He had finished overseeing the 580-page work at the Public Record Office just a month before his death in June the previous year [504]. To say that some of these 'persons of quality' were minor criminals, in bondage, or living with someone else's wife, would not, of course, have sold the book! The important two manuscript volumes of 'Servants to Foreign Plantations' with 10,000 names for the period 1654-85 were not found at Bristol until 1925, when an American offered £1,000 for the volume that contained his ancestor’s name [505]. Transcribed by the genealogist Reginald Hargreaves-Mawdsley (1891-1970), they were printed as Bristol to America in 1929.

Following Colonel Chester's death in 1882, at the suggestion of a wealthy Bostonian lawyer, John Tyler Hassam and with his financial support, the New England Society decided to provide a small salary to someone in London who would continue his work and it chose Henry FitzGilbert Waters (1823-1913) who had come to England in 1879 and published in 1880 his first 'gleanings' from English records about New England families [506]. As a result, from 1883 to 1899, that Society's Register contained large numbers of extracts from records contributed by Waters, mostly from London repositories and largely as a result of trawling through and making copious extracts from the wills then at Somerset House. These extracts were collected together and reprinted in the 1,643 pages of Genealogical gleanings in England (2 vols. 1901) a work of considerable value for families on both sides of the Atlantic before 1680.

The New England Society continued the work of Chester and Waters into the twentieth century by sponsoring other searchers in England, notably James Henry Lea (1846-1914) who had joined the Society in 1888 and who claimed in 1906 to have spent twenty years doing work in England. In 1904 he had compiled Abstracts of wills, Register 'Soame', 1620 and two years later he produced the short Genealogical research in England, Scotland and Ireland: a handbook for the student, drafts of which had earlier appeared in The New England Register outlining a search for emigrant origins through probate material. His abstraction of wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in the year of the sailing of the Mayflower was, of course, no coincidence. He acknowledged the assistance of George Cokaigne [sic, recte Cokayne], the editor of The Complete Peerage, whom he calls 'the Nestor of English Genealogists'. However, Lea was probably best known for his work on The ancestry of Abraham Lincoln (1909) about which there has been much argument. In it he collaborated with John Robert Hutchinson (1858-1924), the record agent who for several years had been working unsuccessfully on the John Russell who migrated to Boston in 1635 [507]. Lea’s work was continued by George Andrews Moriarty (1882-1968), of Ogunquit, Maine, but he conducted his research by correspondence from America and employed English researchers.

The reading of the wills of persons of the same surname proved both before and after a migrant left England, as Lea advocated, starting with the Prerogative Court, had become the standard way of attempting to find the migrant’s origins but was particularly laborious when the surname was a frequent one. To make or publish abstracts of all the wills proved in a certain year and thus to reveal all the hidden subsidiary names and connections that they contained was a particularly valuable task. Using the Prerogative Court, Samuel Anderson Smith listed in 1893-4 all the names in the wills of West Country persons prior to 1743 (a manuscript that used to be at Somerset House but is now apparently lost), William Brigg printed in 1894-1914 abstracts of half the wills proved in the year 1658 and John Harold Morrison (died 1935) printed in 1934 abstracts of all those in 1630 [508]. Others later made similar abstracts, Mrs A. E. Rowan for 1651, Frederick Simon Snell for large parts of 1699 and 1751, and George Sherwood in 1917 abstracted and published the whole of the 4,382 wills (naming 40,000 people) in 'Register Greenly' for 1750.

Inspired by the gleanings published in New England, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography began in 1903 to publish a series of 'Virginia Gleanings in England', initially using material extracted by Henry Waters and then by another well-known searcher Lothrop Withington who was killed on the Lusitania in May 1915. The latter had just sent a postcard to George Sherwood saying ‘Will come by the ‘Lusitania’, subject to Kaiser Wilhelm’s consent’ [509]. The series was then entrusted for three years to the genealogist Leo Culleton (mentioned above) and concluded by Reginald Glencross, of whom more will be said, the latter's contributions appearing intermittently in the Virginia Magazine until July 1929 [510].

One cannot talk about the development of genealogy in the United States and its impact on the United Kingdom without considering the part played by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Latter-day Saints believe that baptism, together with the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, is essential to salvation, but that these ordinances are invalid unless performed by priesthood authority. Their Prophet, Joseph Smith (1805-1844), first preached the doctrine of baptism for the dead in August 1840 and members of the Church that he founded immediately began to perform proxy baptisms for their deceased relatives in the Mississippi River. The following year such baptisms were restricted to the temples where endowments could also take place.

Another early doctrine taught that eternal marriage performed by priesthood authority, when linked to the children of that marriage and 'sealed' by temple ordinance, would create family bonds that would last for eternity. Members of the church believe that these endowment and sealing ceremonies are essential for their salvation and, indeed, for that of those who have gone before, for Joseph Smith said, 'The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead' [511].

After many early members of the church moved to Salt Lake City in 1847 proxy endowments were delayed until the completion of the temple at St George in the far south of Utah in 1877, when the nineteen-year old Susa Young, later an early member of the Society of Genealogists in London, was the first to be baptised for the dead. Two days later her father, Brigham Young (1801-1877), the President of the Church, stood proxy for the endowment of his father [512].

Several prominent early church leaders in Utah set an example in searching for family records. The brothers Orson (1811-1881) and Parley Pratt (1907-1857) did so whilst serving a mission in Washington in 1853 and Orson was the first Latter-day Saint to publish a family history. Their families baptised about three thousand of their ancestors. Wilford Woodruff (1807-1898), later President of the Church, did research whilst on missions in London in 1840 and 1846, and Franklin Dewey Richards (1821-1899) gathered records and an extensive library which he eventually sold at cost to the Church Historian's Office, becoming in 1894 the first president of the Genealogical Society of Utah [513]. In 1893 he had astutely advised Mrs Maria Newman, intent on having searches made in England that she should not tell the parish clerk that the information sought was for temple work as that might antagonise him [514].

As the interest in research grew, requests for assistance from missionaries travelling abroad became frequent. An early professional genealogist, Benjamin F. Cummings (died 1899), served two missions within the United States, 1876-78, and visited the New England Society then and again in 1892 when he made an extensive tour of the eastern States to learn about record-keeping systems [515]. By 1893 it is thought that about fifty people were going to Europe each year for genealogical purposes and that there were at least 178 genealogical missionaries, mostly coming from Utah and going to the UK, between 1885 and 1900. One church member who spent some years in London, James B. Walkley (1863-1940), a carpenter and later an engineer in Salt Lake City who had been born in Islington the son of a pastry cook, emigrated in 1883 but returned to London to do genealogical work for others. Perhaps sub-contracting searches, his services were described in the Deseret Evening News in 1892. He charged $1.50 a day for work in the indexes at the General Register Office, where the fees paid added about $6 to the cost of collecting a hundred names. He is credited with being the first to urge leaders of the Church in Utah to organise a society [516] the subsequent history of which is described below.


It has been noted that William Phillimore was a disciple of Francis Galton and interested in the social status of his family, in heredity generally and, of course, in the passing on of the best genes. An interest in the 'science of human betterment' or eugenics was widespread in middle-class progressive minds by the end of the nineteenth century and although the work of Charles Booth had brought recognition that poverty and unemployment were not necessarily the products of hereditary moral shortcomings, many people who thought like Phillimore founded in December 1907 [517] the Eugenics Education Society in London to promote a public awareness of eugenic problems and of the existence of positive and negative hereditary qualities.

Those who bred horses and other farming stock had always placed emphasis on the need for 'good breeding' but genealogists from farming backgrounds and with their roots in the soil would also have known instinctively, as the eminent genealogist Charles Bernau did, that 'many a good cow hath an ill calf' [518], and that there are ups and downs in most families which have nothing to do with genetic defects but have much to do with economic factors and chance. Bernau himself wrote, 'how much more [than royalty] must those of the middle classes expect to find that some of their direct ancestors were poverty-stricken and lived amid squalid surroundings' [519]. However, Bernau was an early member of the Eugenics Education Society, perhaps (one has to say) because it might give him commercial advantage, and he provided that Society with plenty of space in his International Genealogical Directory [520].

The eugenicist Ernest James Lidbetter (1877-1962) [521] had a somewhat different background. Born in Bermondsey in 1877, the son of a prosperous baker and the grandson of a greengrocer, Lidbetter was in 1898 appointed a Relieving Officer for the Hackney Board of Guardians with responsibility for investigating the claims of applicants for relief. He immediately noticed that many of those who came forward for relief did so repeatedly and were often the children and relatives of others in the same situation and he became convinced that this was due to some defect that was hereditary. He was not the first to notice ‘hereditary paupers’ and an article in the Shoreditch Observer under that heading in 1886 drew attention  to a case before the Islington Board of Guardians when a man in his eightieth year applied for relief and was recommended the workhouse infirmary. The man’s parents, both nearly a hundred years old, were in receipt of out-door relief. The Board’s chairman remarked that its late clerk, Mr Hicks, used to say that he was able to trace pauper families back for a century or more [522].

When in 1910 a Research Committee of the Eugenics Education Society started an investigation of actual pauper families in the East End of London, Lidbetter and two neighbouring Relieving Officers, using the records of their three workhouses and assisted in the research by some twenty members of his Society, the Research Committee also came rapidly to the conclusion that 'a single family stock produces paupers, feeble-minded, alcoholics and certain types of criminals. If an investigation could be carried out on a sufficiently large scale, we believe that the greater proportion of undesirables would be found connected together by a network of relationship' [523]. Having no doubt in the truth of this statement, he for several years assembled pedigrees of the inter-married families involved and he published articles derived from them. He regarded the families, as Pauline Mazumdar says, almost as a breeding or 'biological isolate rather like the fauna of the Galapagos Islands' [524], but made no attempt to differentiate between conditions that were truly genetic and those that were environmental, let alone quantifying or providing any form of statistical analysis of what he was finding.

The genealogist Charles Bernau had already seen, when looking at documents in his parish church at Walton-on-Thames, that 'the task of tracing a family in the lowest stratum of society will be easier than compiling the pedigree of one in the upper middle class' [525]. Bernau's string of examples from the Walton-on-Thames poor law records, published in his The genealogy of the submerged (1908), were very similar to those used by Lidbetter and included settlement examinations, lists of inmates in the workhouse and a removal order in 1843 which showed four generations of a family. It is thus doubtful that Bernau could have learned from Lidbetter's techniques even if they had been more widely known in genealogical circles. In any case the 'submerged' were not themselves tracing their ancestors and the few genealogists, such as Bernau and Gerald Fothergill, who realised that working-class ancestors might appear in these records would undoubtedly have had problems in gaining access to the record, even if they could have persuaded their clients to pay for such research.

Whatever the reasons, there seems to have been very little overlap between the so-called 'gentlemen genealogists' of the first decade of the twentieth century and the membership of the Eugenics Education Society whose over-riding interests at that time were in propaganda for their cause. Unlike the Society of Genealogists, more than half their members were medical men, scientists and academics and more than half were women [526]. Lidbetter, an early and active member of the Eugenics Education Society (and subsequently a member of its Council and a Fellow), never joined the Society of Genealogists, and the Society seems not to have played any part in the Eugenics Education Society or in the first International Congress of Eugenics held in London in 1912 at which numerous pedigrees were displayed [527]. Even the standardisation of the medical pedigree format, which received much discussion at the time the Society of Genealogists was founded [528], involved no member of the Society. Francis Galton had himself written that, 'There are many methods of drawing pedigrees and describing kinship, but for my own purposes I still prefer those that I designed myself' [529]. In that at least, most genealogists in England were unfortunately agreed! Reporting on a lecture by the statistician David Heron (1881-1969) on ‘The work of the Eugenics laboratory’ in 1909, George Sherwood said that Heron ‘held that the inheritance factor was more important than the infection factor’, but made no further comment [530]. The Society of Genealogists' general lack of interest and involvement in eugenics seems to have continued into the late 1920s when some prominent members led a considerable change in attitude.

Society of Genealogists

George Sherwood

The social backgrounds of two well-known genealogists of the period, George Sherwood and Charles Bernau, both of whom subsequently took a leading part in the foundation of the Society of Genealogists, illustrate an important point. They were not, as some have described them, ‘gentlemen genealogists’. They were little more than lower middle class, though perhaps aspiring to higher station. Sherwood himself agreed that a considerable proportion of those who were now beginning to look into their family history, were, as Dr George Marshall used to say, ‘dug up out of the mud’ between 1800 and 1830 [531].

George Frederick Tudor Sherwood was born in Fulham in 1867, the son of a draper, George Albert Sherwood, who came originally from Wallingford in Berkshire and later ran a restaurant in Claverton Street, Pimlico [532], but returned to run a confectioner’s shop at Wallingford [533] before dying at neighbouring Crowmarsh Gifford in 1905 [534]. As a boy George persistently questioned his older relatives about their family history and he had become a record agent before he was twenty [535], continuing to eke out a rather precarious living in that uncertain profession for almost seventy years. His reader's ticket for use in the library at the British Museum was issued to him for life on 29 September 1886 [536]. He had married in 1887 and his wife died the following year. In 1889 he married again and started his ‘Publicity Reference Books’ [537]. He described himself as a record agent in the 1891 census when living with his father-in-law, a stone mason in Fulham [538], and there on summer evenings he copied the inscriptions in the old churchyard (only to find, as so often happened, that they had already been done twice before) [539]. In April 1895, from his father’s then address at 99 Angell Road, Brixton, he put out a pamphlet Sherwood Genealogy describing his collections for what today would be called a one-name study [540]. A few months earlier, when his children were baptised, he was describing himself as a journalist [541].

Most of the genealogical journals in the nineteenth century had printed queries from their subscribers about specific problems, but in 1896 George Sherwood had the idea of soliciting such queries from his friends and correspondents and publishing them in small quarterly booklets which he called Genealogical Queries and Memoranda. He produced seventeen of these between 1896 and 1900. They contained, besides queries, lists of manuscript pedigrees found in public collections and in recently published books. His few editorial comments mention his own collections, the possibility of co-operative searches and the formation of document files by parish, all heralding his later projects.

By 1901 he was calling himself a 'Record Agent - Searcher & Transcriber of Ancient Records and Archives' [542] and deploring the destruction of so many documents. By 1907 he had built up a large collection of old deeds, papers and pedigrees [543], advertising that he undertook the 'cataloguing, calendaring, abstracting, indexing, and arrangement of old charters, deeds, and documents on the system adopted by the Record Office and the Commission on Historical Manuscripts' [544].

Charles Bernau

George Sherwood had gone to live at Brockley in Kent in 1899 and soon thereafter got to know Charles Bernau, some ten years younger, who lived nearby at Lee. Charles Allan Stephen Bernau (1878-1961) had been born at Lee in 1878 the youngest son of an army agents' clerk born at Berbice in British Guiana [545], his male line coming originally from Stolp near Danzig and his mother's family of Benest from Jersey. His interest in genealogy is said to have been fired by tales of a pirate ancestor that he heard as a boy when visiting his mother’s relatives.

Charles Allan Bernau (who never used the Stephen in his name), a man of considerable energy and ideas, had been educated at the City of London School and in the Black Forest and Switzerland. Following in his father’s footsteps he became a clerk to agents at the then booming Baltic Exchange at St Mary Axe in the City, dealing primarily in grain, though genealogy seems to have taken up a greater part of his time from about 1903 onwards [546]. When twenty-two, the Electoral Register shows him lodging in two furnished rooms on the first and third floors of his father's house at 4 Winn Road, Lee, paying a rent of 10s weekly [547]. His mother had died when he was twelve and his elderly father had married a much younger British woman born at Moscow. Charles himself married in 1901 at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Rosa Emily the daughter of Samuel Bennion, a prosperous printer and stationer at Market Drayton. Rosa had previously assisted in her father's shop and after marriage she involved herself in her husband’s genealogical work. He had contributed an article on the 'Descent of Bernau from the Dukes of Normandy' to the Genealogical Magazine in March 1901 [548] and he later published, with other small pamphlets, his own short family history, Genealogy of the Bernau family of Stolp, in 1906.

Towards a Society

Charles Bernau liked to think that he was a 'firm believer in united action in all matters connected with genealogy and heraldry' [549] but he was by no means an easy man to work with. His work with the Directory encouraged him to think of the possibility of forming a society of genealogists and he cast around for support amongst its subscribers so that he might eventually put the idea into practice. A hesitant Sherwood showed some interest in the idea but was doubtful of the level of support that it would receive. In 1905 Sherwood again asked through Notes & Queries what had happened to Rycroft Reeve’s earlier society but receiving no helpful answer, he asked in June 1906 through the same journal, ‘Will a dozen or so students of genealogy join me in forming a club for the making of what, for want of a better term, I will call “consolidated indexes”’. He was optimistically suggesting that a group of people each take one letter of the alphabet and copy onto index slips references from the indexes of any handy historical works, so that one vast index might eventually be made. He did not say if these slips, a standard layout for which he had devised, would be centrally filed or easily accessible [550]. The suggestion again met with no published response. The basic idea, however, remained with Sherwood.

We know that Charles Bernau corresponded with Sherwood in the course of 1906, perhaps as a result of this article, about the possible formation of a society and that they had apparently agreed, as Bernau later wrote, that 'the best policy would be to lead up to the subject by degrees and not to launch the scheme until the genealogical and heraldic public had become accustomed to the idea of international cooperation in their hobby or profession' [551]. Whether the cautious Sherwood was wholeheartedly committed to the ‘international’ ideas that, in view of his background, came naturally to Bernau, is very doubtful.

Sherwood had stopped publishing his series of Genealogical Queries in 1900 but their content may well have given the idea of producing a more substantial volume on an international scale to Charles Bernau who, with the wider circle of correspondents that he was attracting, published in June 1907 from Pendeen, Walton-on-Thames the first edition of an International Genealogical Directory. Quarto in size and with card covers, it sold for 10s 6d, its 113 pages listing the names and addresses of 1,387 correspondents and giving details of the families in which they were interested. In his acknowledgements Bernau wrote that Sherwood had been 'the first to welcome the scheme' and that his 'constant help and advice have been invaluable'. In turn Sherwood wrote that 'no genealogical work of reference of greater general value than this to the ordinary amateur has ever been issued' [552].

Bernau was amongst the first to realise that the professional middle classes who were his clients usually had much humbler ancestry that might also be traced and prove of interest. Between 1908 and 1910 he put out eight small guides to aspects of the subject in a series called The Genealogist's Pocket Library. They sold for 2s 6d each (or 2s 8d post free). The first, Some Special Studies in Genealogy, contained his own essay, The Genealogy of the Submerged, a pioneering work concentrating entirely on the 'common man' and parish chest material, together with essays by Gerald Fothergill on Emigrants to America: how to trace their English ancestry and Josiah Newman on The Quaker Records (1908).

Volume 2 of the series was devoted entirely to George Sherwood's Chancery Proceedings (1908) and volume 3, entitled Royal Descents - Scottish Records, contained W. G. D. Fletcher's How to trace a Descent from Royalty and J. Bolam Johnson's The Scottish Records (1908). George Sherwood had no time for Fletcher’s work, writing that he had ‘an entire absence of enthusiasm as regards this kind of labour, believing that it does genealogical study more harm than good, and that it fosters insufferable snobbery’ [553]. Volume 4 was Alfred Stapleton's The churchyard scribe (1908) with sections 'On recording the inscriptions in a churchyard or burial ground', 'Hints on reading apparently illegible inscriptions' and 'Typical and authentic examples'. Volume 5 consisted of William Bradbrook's From the Records of Quarter Sessions, Percy Rushen's The Records of Patented Inventions, and Perceval Lucas's Seize Quartiers and Ascending Pedigrees (1909). In the sixth volume William Saunders dealt with Ancient Handwritings and Percy Rushen provided The Genealogist's Legal Dictionary (1909). The seventh volume consisted of William Bradbrook's The Parish Register (1910) and the eighth of Gerald Fothergill's, The Records of Naval Men (1910).

Meanwhile in June 1907 Sherwood had begun publishing a well-printed quarterly periodical, The Pedigree Register at 2s 6d an issue, in which he printed a variety of nicely laid out tabular pedigrees based on documentary evidence. To him ‘a pedigree is the thing’ and ‘a little pedigree chart instantly appeals to all interested in the subject’ [554]. Certainly a drop-line pedigree has never been bettered for quickly communicating a relationship. The Pedigree Register was initially published from 50 Beecroft Road, Brockley, to which he had moved in 1899 and where his main collections were now housed, but soon afterwards he took a small office at 227 The Strand, which, if the drawing in his advertisement in the International Genealogical Directory (1909) is anything to go by, was quickly lined from floor to ceiling with bookcases and box files. His room in the Strand first appeared in the London Post Office Directory as the 'Pedigree Register Office' in 1910 and an advertisement in the 1909 Directory, 'Documents to Prove', illustrates the wide variety of work that he carried out. Down one side it read, 'Documents to prove biography, genealogy, family & local history, hereditary succession, family traits, and the influence of heredity and character, succession of incumbents, etc.' and down the other, 'Documents to prove pedigrees and the right to armorial bearings. The 'pedigrees' of old houses and land, as well as of people. Fishery, foreshore, and common rights, markets, fairs, etc.'

At the same time Sherwood advertised that items from his ‘Loan Collection of Old Deeds’, listed from 1907 in the Register, could be borrowed by subscribers in return for a postal order for half-a-crown (2s 6d) which would be 'devoted to improving the Collection' [555]. In 1909 he purchased 5,183 vellum documents from the collection of Sir Thomas Phillipps but announced that the system of lending them out had not worked well and had been abandoned though subscribers to the Register might call and see anything of interest [556]. In his September 1908 issue he had published an early article on 'Criminal Records' and a contributor, Dr William Bradbrook, asked for information about any person of his su name before 1800 'however humble their position or shady their conduct' [557]. As Charles Bernau wrote in 1910 Sherwood allowed 'both Pauper and Prince free access to his pages' [558].

Bernau's family and school background no doubt played a part in his belief that any society brought into being should be international in character, but that belief proved quite unrealistic. A Convention Internationale d'Héraldique had been constituted in Basle, Switzerland, on the last day of December 1907, and in correspondence with its Vice-Chancellor, Rene Droz, on 3 September 1908, Bernau wrote that his International Genealogical Directory, which had just been brought to the attention of the Congrés Universal des Sciences Auxiliares de l'Histoire in Berlin, already had the official recognition of the Office of Arms in Dublin Castle and the semi-official recognition of the College of Arms in London [559]. This was a considerable exaggeration for, as Sir Anthony Wagner later wrote, the officers of the College of Arms, 'took a dim view' of the professionals who had founded the Society 'as an organisation of would-be rivals' [560], and it was some time before the College became reconciled to the idea, apparently on the understanding that any new society would not undertake large scale paid research [561]. Rene Droz, who believed that genealogy was more 'positive' and 'practical' than heraldry, had replied to Bernau proposing an international society for both subjects, but Bernau, in his answer of 10 September 1908, continued to think that the time was 'not yet ripe' for the formation of such a group.

In any case, Bernau was far too busy sending out circulars about his Directory to give detailed consideration to the idea. He told Droz in that 10 September 1908 letter that his plan was to bring out three editions of the Directory in which he would lead up to the idea of a society by degrees and that he would broach the idea of an international one in his third edition. However, he sketched out a few initial thoughts saying that the annual subscription should either be a nominal one of a shilling or two-and-sixpence, or that it should be a heavy one of from one to five guineas to pay for secretary, offices and a library. He thought that members might pay the smaller fee and Fellows the higher one. Ignoring the existence of Sherwood's Pedigree Register, he suggested that his own Directory should be the projected society's official organ [562]. He wrote again a week later stressing a role that county secretaries might play in such a scheme, believing that the use of local figures, such as Maxwell Wood in Northumberland and Durham and William Gerish in Hertfordshire, with their established connections and friendships, would lead to the proposed society obtaining many members in their areas [563].

Bernau persuaded the Convention Internationale d'Héraldique that the Second Edition of his International Genealogical Directory, which was published in March 1909 (again at 10s 6d), should be called the Convention's ‘Official Organ’. It was larger, with 166 pages and 1,381 subscribers, and was immediately followed in April by a First Supplement (at 3s 10d post free) consisting solely of an index to places, compiled by George Sherwood. Like more recent directories of the same kind the International Genealogical Directory was designed to bring together persons interested in the same ancestral families to share research and to avoid duplication [564]. Early in 1910 Sherwood wrote warmly that the organised approach of Bernau’s Directories was helping to remove the reproach that Genealogy was ‘neither Literature nor Science’ [565].

However, Bernau was finding all the work involved a considerable strain and instead of aiming for a third edition he in February 1910 produced a Second Supplement to the Second Edition containing reviews and correspondence as well as amendments to the First Edition and details of the interests of 83 new subscribers, of which he now had about 2,250. In a review of Sherwood's Pedigree Register, Bernau called it 'in a sense, the first-born of the children of the "I. G. Directory"', but as both had first appeared in the same month in June 1907 that seems hardly fair. In the correspondence Charles Fortescue Osmond (1877-1966) called for 'An official register of professional genealogists' and Sherwood appealed 'For those with time to spare' to consider the transcription of parish registers. The volume's index included the surnames of the families for which Sherwood held material that could be consulted in his office.

For those who could read French the Second Supplement to the Second Edition contained, in a report of the work of the Convention dated 1 December 1909, the surprising news that Bernau, who for some years had set himself a heavy workload, had intended that his third edition would be aimed at the rest of Europe, but unfortunately he had seen his health shaken by the onset of a lengthy illness and complete rest had been prescribed. The Convention regretted that his retirement had placed in question his stated aim to found an 'Association Généalogique et Héraldique Internationale' of which his Directory was to be the organ, and it announced that as a result it would look anew at participation in a proposed meeting of the Congrés Universal des Sciences Auxiliares de l'Histoire in London in 1913 [566].

Bernau's English introduction to his Directory had curiously avoided any mention of this turn of events. Perhaps he had realised the impracticality of what he was attempting and that the correspondence involved in a truly 'European' Directory would be considerable. Perhaps he also realised that the numbers of those in England with an interest in European ancestry was small indeed. In a note on page xlv of the Directory he reckoned that there were 30,000 persons in Great Britain interested in genealogy and that his directories had reached only 5-8% of them. How he calculated the first figure is not clear but he appealed for benefactors to come forward so that he could send free copies of the Directory to public libraries and reach a wider readership. One assumes that that appeal fell on very deaf ears.

Whatever the truth behind Bernau's actions, the slow developments in Basle were already being overtaken by events in London where another periodical, Notes & Queries, was playing its part in steps leading to the formation of a society in England and, as a result, the 'international' or 'universal' dimension was largely forgotten. Since its first appearance in 1849 many antiquaries and local historians had used Notes & Queries to publicise their schemes and projects and to lobby for access to records. In the early 1890s Mrs C. A. White had written a note there, between other notes on 'Cuckoos walled in' and 'Quicksilver in Plants', about the need to make and publish catalogues of manuscripts in private hands [567]. A little later William McMurray (1881-1945), a regular contributor, wrote about access to the old ecclesiastical probate records then at Somerset House [568].  In March 1910 William Blyth Gerish (1864-1921), a well-known antiquary in Hertfordshire, urged through its pages the importance of copying tombstone inscriptions [569], and wrote again the same month appealing for assistance with his proposed Dictionary of Hertfordshire Biography.

Gerish would undoubtedly have seen the letter from W. V. Morten of The Drive, Roundhay, Leeds, which appeared in Notes & Queries on 9 April 1910 [570], about an article in the Quarterly Review again calling attention to the desirability of preserving national archives and records. Mr Morten said that he was honorary secretary of a society for collecting, indexing, and properly arranging the old and current records of the Civil Service, though most of those he had obtained related to the Post Office. The writer was Walter Victor Morten (1862-1942), a telephone and post office worker, whose large collection, sold in the 1920s, was the basis of the archive now at Bruce Castle Museum, the former home of Sir Rowland Hill, in Haringey.

In a footnote to Morten’s suggestion the editor of Notes & Queries drew attention to the earlier letters and said that he was 'in full sympathy with such laudable effort to preserve and make known the memories of the past' [571]. There are always those, of course, who can see no reason why papers in private custody should become, as other correspondents put it, 'the property of the mob' or of 'the curious incompetent' [572], but Gerish wrote off immediately. He had himself been instrumental in the founding of the East Herts Archaeological Society and his books and pamphlets had received kind notices in the journal of the New England Historic Genealogical Society in far-away Boston as well as in Sherwood's The Pedigree Register. His letter appeared in Notes & Queries on 23 April 1910:

'This is doubtless an excellent project, but there seems to be room in this kingdom for a society similar in several respects to the New England Historic Genealogical Society. For instance, the increasing quantity of genealogical memoranda, both privately printed and in manuscript, has no habitat; and if a society did no more, in return for a moderate subscription, than secure a permanent repository, it would not have been founded in vain. Many of us have collected material for a history of our families, which, when the last summons comes, will most probably be destroyed; but if there were a society in existence, a clause in the collector's will would ensure the MSS being handed over to it. Perhaps Mr C. A. Bernau, as a genealogical expert, would favour us with his opinion' [573].

Bernau's reply was given prominence under the heading 'A genealogical society for the United Kingdom' in the issue of Notes & Queries for 21 May 1910 [574]. He said that he had received scores of letters on the subject in the last few years and he gave a summary of the various points that he said had been made in them. These points largely reflect his own overly optimistic views, and it is interesting that he now seemed to attach little importance to his original ideas about an international organisation. He wrote:

  • '1. Any scheme of this nature depending on the ability and exertions of one man is doomed to failure - perhaps even during his lifetime, certainly shortly after his death.
  • 2. The matter should receive the careful consideration of a Committee of Genealogists as a detailed and well-thought-out plan of action is essential before any appeal for support is made to the genealogical public.
  • 3. One correspondent suggests that the Society of Antiquaries might be taken as a model; another considers that the basis should be that of a limited liability company; while Mr Rene Droz (Vice-Chancellor of the Convention Internationale d'Héraldique) urges the formation of an International Genealogical and Heraldic Association, of which the British Society would be a branch.
  • 4. The annual expenses which such a Society would have to meet would be: (a) The salary of a competent Librarian and of two or more assistants. The Librarian could undertake also the secretarial duties. (b) The rent of a room (later, of rooms; still later, of a house) in London. (c) The purchase of genealogical works of reference, and (d) Incidentals, e.g., printing, postage, stationery, bookbinding, &c.
  • 5. The annual revenue to meet the above expenditure would be: (a) Subscriptions of Members. These might be of three classes: (i) Fellows at, say, two guineas; (ii) Ordinary Members at, say, one guinea; and (iii) Corresponding Members at, say, half a guinea. (b) Interest on the investment of moneys received in legacies or life compositions. (c) The profit from publications issued from time to time by the Society. (d) Fees charged by the Librarian for searches in the library of the Society, undertaken by him on behalf of those members who could not come to London to search for themselves.
  • 6. The initial expenses, e.g., furniture, should be provided out of entrance fees.
  • 7. Any Member should have the right of leaving his manuscript collections to the Society for safe preservation. All such manuscripts to be indexed (surnames and place-names) by the Librarian and his assistants by means of the card-index system, so that a reference to this General Index might indicate at a glance which manuscripts in the Society's possession contain data of interest to the searcher.
  • 8. The Society to hold examinations of, and issue certificates to, persons desirous of qualifying as authorities in any special branch of genealogical research.
  • 9. The funds of the Society should not be wasted in dinners or excursions, nor should there be any obligation on the Society to issue an annual volume to its members.'

Bernau added as his own suggestion the idea that as expenses would be incurred in preparing a suitable scheme 'and submitting it to the many thousands in the United Kingdom who are interested in genealogy' they should form a preliminary society of about fifty genealogists to do this, they each paying a guinea towards the costs, a circular from fifty persons proving, as he wrote, that the scheme was not 'what is vulgarly called "a one-man show"'.

A month later the cautious George Sherwood set out his views [575]. He thought that the organisation needed a good name, suggesting 'The National Genealogical Society', a name actually adopted by a newly formed Washington-based organisation in America in 1912, but he made the interesting observation that there were many people who were deeply interested in local history, but for whom the word 'genealogy' had no attraction. He added, 'We must needs impress upon this class that genealogy implies no more (and no less), than the discovery of what their own personal blood-relationship may be to scenes, places, and events, and the men and women who took part in them - that a pedigree is not, as commonly supposed, an affair of mere vaingloriousness and pretence'.

Sherwood firmly believed that the society should not be a printing society, but one devoted to collecting and indexing. He saw its primary function as being the compilation 'of one great Index to genealogical, biographical, and local documents, on the Card Index system'. He too wanted a register of experts and of competent record-searchers in various parts of the country to whom enquiries could be passed, suggesting that these be elected by the Fellows. He ended, 'The ideal which such a society should set before it is the ready production, to any inquirer, of a body of direct reference to documentary evidence concerning any place or family in the kingdom'.

Founding the Society

Shortly after this, in June 1910 [576], Bernau and Sherwood got together with three of their friends and fellow genealogists: Gerald Fothergill, Edgar Francis Briggs and Dr William Bradbrook. Edgar Briggs (1853-1928), the son of a merchant in Denmark Street, Bishopsgate, lived at Holmwood, Weybridge, and was a partner in the legal firm of Arnold and Henry White of Great Marlborough Street which subsequently, as mentioned later, was involved in the drawing up of the Society’s constitution, continuing to advise the Society on legal matters and to keep an eye on legal points which would affect genealogists. Not known to many members, he was of a retiring disposition, but he did some indexing, in particular the tedious slipping of the four-volume Armory compiled by a nineteenth-century herald painter, Joseph Eedes (1821-1891), which Briggs had himself loaned to the Society [577] . When younger and managing clerk to his firm he had shown himself remarkably gullible in loans totalling £3,500 which he and his wife had made to an impostor Emir Hafiz [578].

Dr William Bradbrook (1859-1940), the son of a pawnbroker in Bethnal Green who was also the local Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, was for 47 years a general medical practitioner at Bletchley and a man of great energy who became a pillar of the new Society, remaining a member of the Executive Committee for the next twenty years. He had learned to ride a bone-shaker in 1875 and for 60 years he cycled about to practise his hobbies of church architecture and heraldry. An enthusiastic inquirer and accurate recorder in remarkable variety he copied numerous registers and was Honorary Secretary of the Buckinghamshire Parish Register Society, writing one of the earliest articles, in the British Medical Journal, about the analysis of parish registers for statistical purposes [579].

In August the five (Sherwood, Bernau, Fothergill, Briggs and Bradbrook) sent out a prospectus asking for fifty 'Founders and Fellows' to come forward and provide a fund to cover the cost of incorporating the proposed society [580]. They began to keep an account of their outgoings on printing and stationery on 2 July 1910 [581].

Two of the young men who came forward had already offered their support through the pages of Notes & Queries [582]. They were William Roberts Crow (1878-1962), of Wallington, Surrey, and Richard Holworthy (1887-1961) [583], of Bickley, Kent, later an active professional genealogist. Holworthy had been born in Australia but lived when young at Bromley with his grandfather, an Australian merchant who had been born in Holland, and he was educated at a boarding school at Harpenden [584]. In 1911 he had just set up house with his first wife Grace Emily at Cromarty, Claremont Road, Bickley, and was describing himself as an importer of Canary Island produce. Crow came from a family of timber merchants at Bramley Hill, South Croydon and was himself in that trade [585]. Both Crow and Holworthy became Founder Fellows and were on committees in the early days of the Society, though Crow resigned his membership in 1920. Richard Holworthy's letter to Notes & Queries had made it clear that he did not think that the society should be a 'Syndicate' or Limited Company and it was not the only time that he and Bernau would disagree.

Gerish, whose letter had forced the pace and been the catalyst in all this, played no part in the foundation. He was active enough in Hertfordshire and his health was not good. In any case he would not have been pleased by Bernau's statement that the funds of the proposed society should not be 'wasted' in dinners or excursions for he liked few things more than a good excursion, in the organisation of which he excelled [586]. An indefatigable antiquarian, he travelled daily to London to work as a clerk in the London Provincial Bank, but at the same time organised the copying of the inscriptions on some 70,000 tombstones in 131 Hertfordshire churchyards, wrote numerous pamphlets on the county's folklore, indexed a large number of un-indexed works and embarked on several major biographical projects, as well as organising some forty-nine excursions for the East Herts Archaeological Society. His train journeys from Bishops Stortford were devoted to writing index slips. Though born in London, the only child of an engineer, he had been brought up at Gorleston, near Great Yarmouth, and in 1915 he retired to nearby Caister-on-Sea where he continued his local researches, dying there in 1921, aged 56 [587].

In a letter dated 7 October 1910 Bernau told the historian and biographer Lady Elizabeth Cust (1830-1914) that the new organisation was to be called 'The Society of Genealogists of London' in imitation of the Society of Antiquaries of London and that forty-three people had already enrolled themselves as Founders [588]. Bernau wanted Lady Elizabeth (the wife of the barrister Sir Reginald Cust and author of Some account of the Stewarts of Aubigny and Records of the Cust family) [589] to be a Vice-President. She declined but agreed to become a Founder and Fellow. Bernau was already taking subscriptions for the following year [590].

In late November 1910, after the Marquis of Tweeddale (1826-1911) had accepted the Presidency and the Marquis de Liveri et di Valdausa a Vice-Presidency, Bernau wrote to the latter that 'the Fifty Founders were obtained almost immediately' and that they were now hard at work electing the eleven members of an Executive Committee and preparing the Memorandum and Articles of Association. William Montagu (Hay),10th Marquis of Tweeddale, had succeeded to the peerage in 1878 and had various commercial and banking interests but does not appear to have been previously connected with the world of genealogy. He was already old and he died on 25 November 1911.

Rene Droz of the Convention, whom Bernau approached about a Vice-Presidency in December 1910, declined, but Napoleone Barone, Marquis de Liveri et di Valdausa, the author of the Libro d'Oro della Republica di San Marino [591], accepted. He was interested in heraldry, orders of knighthood, and coins and medals [592], had married at Lambeth in 1882 and had a house at Dulwich [593]. A second Vice-President was found in Lord Llangattock (1837-1912), a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a restorer of churches in Monmouthshire, but he also died in September 1912 [594].

On 27 November 1910 Bernau wrote enthusiastically to George Latimer Apperson (1857-1937), the editor of The Antiquary, asking if he wanted to be the first to announce that 'this important new Society will be incorporated at the end of December, if not before' [595]. However, in January 1911, when The Antiquary reported that a Society 'was taking shape' [596] Bernau in fact still awaited the approval of the Board of Trade. William Gerish had seen the report and wrote to Bernau on 3 January saying, 'I observe in The Antiquary that you have practically succeeded in floating the proposed Society of Genealogists. Please accept my congratulations', but as noted above he resisted any involvement in the Society that, as Bernau generously acknowledged in reply, 'started as a result of your letter to Notes and Queries' [597].

However, there were obstacles still to be overcome. On 15 February 1911 a formal notice, dated 7 February, was inserted in The Times over Sherwood's signature stating that an application had been made to the Board of Trade for a licence to omit the word 'Limited' from the Society's name. The notice set out the objects of the proposed Society as the promotion of the study of genealogy and topography through the formation of a library and safe depository for pedigrees, grants of arms, and other manuscripts and 'by forming and carrying on, either gratis or on payment of fees, a register or registers of pedigrees, grants of arms, birth, baptism, marriage, death, burial and other certificates, and other evidence of events in family history' [598].

It was this latter paragraph and the possibility of the growth of a rival commercial concern that gave the College of Arms concern. Pressure was brought to bear and the offending wording about the registration of pedigrees was considerably altered to read, 'By the preparation and use of indices, on the 'slip' or 'card' or other systems, to the printed or other collections of or in the possession of the Society to public records, printed volumes generally, and general sources of reference, particularly with regard to matters of genealogical, archaeological, topographical or historical interest to Members and Associates of the Society, and also by the acquisition and use of Government publications, including indices and reports of the Public Record Office and reports of Royal Commissions'. To this verbose paragraph was also added, 'By rendering assistance (other than of a financial nature) to genealogists and others, whether within or without the United Kingdom, in connection with genealogical, topographical and biographical research' [599].

Honour was thus satisfied, but everything had taken longer than the impatient Bernau had anticipated and it was not until 25 April 1911 that the seven subscribers set their names to the Memorandum of Association and not until 8 May 1911 that the Society was incorporated under licence of the Board of Trade as an 'Association not for profit', with permission, dated 26 April 1911, to be registered with Limited Liability but without the addition of the word 'Limited' to its name.

The seven subscribers to the Memorandum were Charles Bernau and George Sherwood, 'publishers of genealogical works', Gerald Fothergill and Frank Kearsey Hitching, 'authors of genealogical works', two solicitors - Cyril Shakespear Beachcroft (1885-1917) and Edgar Francis Briggs (1853-1928), and a barrister, Frank Evans (1850-1921) [600]. The names of the Founders and Fellows and of the first members of the Society were set out in the Articles of Association. Cyril Beachcroft, a Lieutenant in the Household Battalion with two very young children, was killed on active service in Belgium in October 1917. Frank Kearsey Hitching (1883-1926),another young friend formerly from Lewisham, and Frank Evans, who for many years was a member of the Law Reporting Staff of The Times and was the author of The Practice of the Chancery Division, but who had an accident in 1919 [601], both allowed their memberships to lapse.

The constitution, which closely followed Bernau's original suggestions, was drawn up by the barrister Frank Evans [602] but knocked into shape by Edgar Francis Briggs, a partner in the firm of Arnold and Henry White of 12 & 14 Great Marlborough Street, and described by Sherwood as of 'a retiring disposition' [603]. Sir Henry White (died 1922) was, as Charles Bernau proudly told Rene Droz [604], the King's private solicitor, and he became a subscribing member. The cost of incorporation had been £43 15s. 9d. The Antiquary gave the new organisation a warm welcome in its issue for July 1911 saying that it 'starts under excellent auspices and deserves success' [605].

However, Bernau's dream of an international organisation had proved quite unrealistic. Of the Founders and Fellows and thirteen members named in the Articles, the Marquis de Liveri et di Valdausa was the only European, though Eduardo Hillman, born in Chile, lived in Venice. Henry Boddington, of Pownall Hall in Cheshire, sometimes gave an address in France, two members lived in Scotland and two in Ireland. There were two Americans, the Revd Joseph Brown Turner, the Minister of the First Presbyterian Church at Dover, Delaware, a Founder and Fellow and a noted collector of genealogies, and Mrs William Gerry Slade (1847-1925), of New York City, an obsessive promoter of patriotic societies in America. She and Lady Elizabeth Cust were the only women named.

Society’s First Home

George Sherwood had acted as Honorary Secretary since at least January 1911 [606] and his little office high up in a modern building at 227 The Strand became the first home of the Society. As he later wrote the Society 'started in my small office in the Strand with a pile of books on the floor' [607]. His 'Room 22' was described as the Society's 'Temporary Office' on the letterhead whilst negotiations for a room or rooms elsewhere continued [608]. Henry Mayhew (1812-1887), the author of the classic social survey, London Labour and the London Poor, had been at No 227 The Strand in 1852, and later a building on the site had housed the 'Army and Navy Toilet Club' which in 1883 was offering hot and cold baths at a shilling each.

The Society's rooms were very conveniently situated above the Temple Bar Restaurant and facing the Law Courts in the heart of the legal district. They were within easy walking distance of the Public Record Office in Chancery Lane. Quite nearby, in the other direction, Somerset House contained the old and new probate records as well as the General Register Office. The character of the busy shop-lined Strand had changed greatly in recent years with wide scale 'improvements' but it still had many small hotels and boarding houses in its riverside lanes [609].

The Antiquary helpfully gave an encouraging report of the Society's first annual meeting, held at the recently restored Prince Henry's Room at 17 Fleet Street (opposite the end of Chancery Lane and one of the few buildings in the City to survive the Great Fire) on Thursday, 29 June 1911, at 5.30 pm, with Dr William Bradbrook in the chair, saying that 'a considerable number of printed books, original documents, manuscripts, and index slips, had been received'. At the meeting accounts were presented covering the period from 2 July 1910 to 15 June 1911 which showed a balance of £2-6-4, some £131-5-0 having been received in subscriptions. It was announced that 97 Fellows, Members and Associates had been elected since the first meeting of the Provisional Committee in June 1910 and that the Society was in negotiations for a room or rooms in which to place them [610]. These concluded on 25 August when two rooms at the same address became available [611]. the cost of the furniture and fittings being £42-11-7 and the rent, to Messrs Spencer, Santo & Co, to the end of the year, £21-1-11 [612]. A further Ordinary General Meeting of the Society was held at Prince Henry’s Rooms on Friday, 28 June 1912, when the accounts for the half-year 15 June to 31 December 1911 were approved [613].

By mid-August 1911 the membership had risen to 114 [614] and George Sherwood was able to announce in September that his Pedigree Register had been appointed the official organ of the Society [615] though, of course, it was not included in the annual subscription and those members who wished to receive it paid a further 10s 6d direct to Sherwood. A possible rival for the honour had withdrawn when Charles Bernau wrote in an introductory note to the Third Supplement of the Second Edition of his International Genealogical Directory which had come out earlier that year, 'Now that the Society of Genealogists of London has come into being, I feel that future Editions of this work will be unnecessary'. Bernau had grown tired of the work and the heavy correspondence involved and wrote that if a successor could be found 'his lot will not be a pleasant one'. A successor might make hundreds of good friends but, 'A tired brain and no spare time from one year's end to another is what he may expect'.

Bernau may well have found also that a subscriber to one edition would not necessarily subscribe to the next and that those actually willing to part with the cost of a subscription were far fewer than he had thought. His Third Supplement, published from Billiter Square Buildings in the City, had only eighty-four new subscribers and it contained a report of a far from satisfactory meeting of the Convention International d'Héraldique held at Lausanne on 5 September 1910 [616]. There had been a lively two-hour discussion but almost no agreement on any subject, though a Commission généalogique had been proposed and the journal of the Société Suisse d'Héraldique, Archives Héraldiques Suisses, had been adopted as the Convention's official organ. Bernau chose to ignore this latter snub and continued to call his Third Supplement the official organ of the Convention. However, he had given up all idea of producing another Directory; he turned his attention to financially more productive ventures and his surviving papers contain no further mention of the Convention or its Commission [617].

Society’s Administration

In spite of the work of Frank Evans and Edgar Briggs, the Society's first constitution, which remained in force for many years, caused a number of problems, particularly as the organisation grew. It allowed for Fellows, Members and Associates.

The fifty original Founders and Fellows paid two guineas a year, half their first annual subscriptions going to defray the preliminary expenses of the Society. They were a slowly diminishing number. The last survivor was Charles Henry ('Harry') Clinton Pirie-Gordon of Buthlaw, born in 1883, whose varied career included a period as editor of Burke's Landed Gentry (1930-36) when preparing for the 1937 Centenary Edition, who did not die until 8 December 1969 [618].

The Founders and Fellows (and future Fellows) were empowered to elect from amongst the membership new 'Fellows by Election' at meetings at which the quorum was three, but no guide as to the qualifications of these new Fellows was provided. This vagueness was bound to cause future problems and the somewhat questionable honour of election was, in any case, offset by an increase in subscription from one to two guineas. A Fellow could compound all future subscriptions by paying ten guineas and thus become a Life Fellow. Although not envisaged in the constitution, the first Honorary Life Fellow, elected on 7 September 1911, was the Revd Edward Cookson, of Ipswich, Suffolk (died 1920, aged 87)[619], a local record searcher who had given 180,000 completed index slips to the Society [620]. Already by 1913 there were doubts as to the ‘qualifications’ of the Fellows and the Secretary wrote in the Society’s second Annual Report that ‘a Member cannot now be elected a Fellow until he has been a Member for a year, and has shown himself to be a valuable Member’ [621] but that decision, whoever made it, was quickly forgotten, being contrary to the constitution.

Applications to be Ordinary Members had to be supported by two existing members or Fellows to whom they were personally known. They paid a guinea a year but they could compound all future subscriptions by paying seven guineas and becoming Life Members.

The Members and Fellows had access to the library, but initially under the Articles only the Fellows could borrow (an unspecified number of) printed books. In addition the Fellows were entitled to receive quarterly reports of any new information that arrived on a specified number of families or places. Their number was to be specified by the Executive Committee and was agreed to be ten [622]. Reports were made on a simple 'Reporting Form' that gave the name of the contributor and the place where the material was to be found (index slip, document or bound volume of manuscripts) followed by the surname or place-name and the date. No correspondence could be entered into about the report but a member not able to look up the entry could pay a fee of five shillings and ask 'The Officer in Waiting' (a fancy designation borrowed from the College of Arms) for details [623]. In September 1918 it was announced that the Executive Committee had decided that ‘for the future Fellows may borrow two books at a time, and Members one book, from the Library’. Books could be kept for a week, postage both ways being paid by the borrower [624]. However, no appropriate alteration was made to the Articles and the Members’ right to take books from the Library was long questioned by the Fellows, particularly if they had travelled some distance in the expectation that the book(s) would be available.

Besides the Members and Fellows there were also Associate Members, paying a guinea a year. Those Associates who had their principal place of residence 'distant at least 25 miles from the centre on the level of Trafalgar Square of the Nelson Column in that Square' paid only ten shillings and sixpence a year and were called Corresponding Associates. The Associates, who were not deemed members of the Society, also needed two nominees. They had the same privileges as members, but did not have the right to vote at meetings or the financial liability should the Society be wound up. No further associate members were elected following the major changes to the Articles in 1979.

By 1918 those Members who joined late in a year were allowed to pay a proportion of the current year, reckoned from the last quarter day, provided they paid their subscriptions for the following year in advance [625].

The curious 25-mile radius, which was later adopted as the qualification for Country Membership, had been copied from other societies but was a perpetual source of annoyance and argument. It caused considerable ill will, with people at different ends of the same road who used the same railway station paying different subscriptions or quoting the mileage as it appeared in some Road Book and disputing the very large-scale map, with its appropriate circle, that we were obliged to commission especially from Geographia. The map hung in the office until joyously taken down in 1997 when future elections to country membership were abolished, much simplifying my successor’s work.

Bernau was, it seems, also largely responsible for the administrative structure of the Society. The eleven members of the first Executive Committee were named in the Articles of Association. The Committee met in the Society’s rooms initially on the first Thursday in each month, changing this to the second Wednesday from February 1912, usually at 2 pm, the Fellows meeting afterwards at 3.30 pm.

By August 1911 three sub-committees (on parish registers, the Consolidated Index and on family associations) were actively at work [626], and on 2 November 1911 a large number of members was elected to serve on sub-committees, the Secretary being directed to take steps towards their formation [627]. By the end of the year fourteen sub-committees had been developed, each with chairmen, but not all with members willing to act as their secretaries. There were five for the Library alone (one each for printed books, manuscript books, loose documents, the slip-indexes by name and place, and the slip-index by subject), and others for heraldry, pedigrees, monumental inscriptions, parish registers and marriage licences, school and apprenticeship records, family bibles, local records, and family associations.

Details of these committees were all set out in an elaborate 43-page prospectus, of which a thousand copies were printed in January 1912. There were then 161 members [628]. The prospectus stressed that the function of the new society was 'to collect, index, and arrange historical, genealogical, and heraldic evidence, for the use of its members and associates, and to notify to its Fellows, as it accrues, material of special personal interest to themselves' [629]. It reiterated that this was to be accomplished through the compilation of slip indexes and that it was particularly opposed to printing and distributing record material in the manner of the older record societies.

By the end of 1913 two more committees had been added, for Irish and Scottish records, so that there were now sixteen, but it is very apparent from the Annual Report that only a few of the major ones were meeting regularly and several, desperate for volunteers, had not met at all [630].

For the Company Seal the Society adopted a design by the artist-member James 'Duncan' Moul (1864-1927) [631] of a tree showing some of its roots and dropping a leaf and although this was not, I think, one of his more successful works it was used as a Badge on the Society's membership cards (apparently first introduced and sold for a shilling in 1922) [632] and other publications until 1961.

Staffing, 1911-1918

Sherwood took the lead as Secretary of the Society from 1911 to 1914 and had the solicitor Edgar Briggs as Treasurer from 1911 to 1915 when Sherwood took over as Treasurer and continued in that role, not altogether successfully, until 1951. He took the view that if the Society kept its head above water and had enough income to pay the rent that was sufficient and that it did not need to build up reserves. It was a policy that almost had the most disastrous consequences.

However, in the early days it was usually Sherwood or the chairman of one of the committees who took the initiatives or wrote to the press, though other members, like William Bradbrook, Frederick Snell and the barrister Reginald Glencross (1878-1944) who had been Assistant Secretary to Sir Arthur Vicars, Ulster King of Arms, and an assistant to the editor of Dod's Peerage in 1906 [633], were also very active. Snell had been a schoolmaster in Africa but came to Colindale in north London to indulge his antiquarian interests in 1906. He was a regular attender at committees and spent much time as secretary to that on the Consolidated Index but although of great energy he suffered much ill-health and died in 1914 [634]. The chairmen of the executive committee only emerge as active in the mid-1920s.

Of the paid staff several came from the Lewisham area and were clearly recruited either by George Sherwood, Charles Bernau or the Revd Ernest Salisbury Butler Whitfield (1872-1943). Charles Bernau himself later employed quite a number of young ladies in his growing genealogical practice. Frank Ellis Price (1860-1948), a professional genealogist who for twenty-five years had been a herald-painter at the College of Arms [635] and also lived at Lee in Lewisham, acted as the first, and unpaid, Librarian until 12 October 1912 when he resigned [636]. He had been described as the Librarian-Secretary in August 1912 when a clerk was engaged to assist him [637]. The detailed prospectus of the Society printed in 1912 says explicitly that all the completed indexing slips were to be passed to the Librarian for sorting into the Consolidated Index, assisted if necessary by the Members [638], but the Annual Report for 1912 says that ‘the actual sorting-in of slips’ for the Great Card Index was being done almost entirely by the regular staff [639]. One wonders how congenial they would have found regular work of this kind. In January 1912 steps were first taken to install a telephone [640].

Sherwood came to his office from Brockley almost every day and on 20 May 1912 Bernau told the editor of The Antiquary that Sherwood was 'ready to receive contributions for the library at that address' [641]. On 22 September 1912 Miss Bradfield was engaged to assist the particularly active Parish Register Committee [642].

The young Ivy Constance Woods (1893-1971), only daughter of a solicitor's clerk at Shepherd's Bush, was appointed temporary Librarian-Secretary from 31 October 1912 [643] but continued in the post only until March 1914, the sum of £117-11-3 being paid in salaries in 1913. She had acted as Secretary to the inactive Committee on Records of Migration when it met in November 1913 [644] and had become a member of the Society in April that year [645]. In June she had written to The Times in support of a plea for more indexes to the PCC wills [646]. She married at Shepherds Bush in 1917 wealthy Edward Meynell (died 1931), a solicitor some thirty years her senior and himself a member since December 1912, but neither retained their membership. She had no children and died at Southend-on-Sea in 1971 aged 77.

Ivy Woods had been succeeded as Secretary in April 1914 by another lady who lived at Lewisham (though born in Liverpool), the recently married Grace Mary de Mouilpied (nee Councell; 1886-1968), the wife of Alfred de Mouilpied an Inspector of Schools for the London County Council who was originally from Jersey. She, however, left early in 1915 to have a baby, and only the services of an Assistant Secretary were retained. In the difficult War years another young lady, Constance Margaret Victoria Agnew (1897-1990), the daughter of a photographic expert at Ilford in Essex, was the Assistant in April 1916. She was appointed Secretary in June 1917, but resigned with the end of the War in sight on 1 November 1918, marrying Douglas Abbott in 1923 [647].


The rooms were, from October 1911, open from 11 am to 7 pm, Monday to Saturday [648], but from June 1914 they closed on Saturdays at 4 pm [649], the front door being closed on that day at 2.30 and members ringing the bell [650]. By 1918 the hours were 10 am to 6 pm, the rooms closing at 4 pm on Saturdays and on Bank Holidays [651] and those hours continued until August 1928 when the rooms were kept open for a trial period until 8 pm on Tuesdays and until 6 pm on Saturdays [652]. This trial period lasted until the move to Chaucer House in 1933 when the late openings on Tuesdays had to be discontinued. In August 1912 it was agreed that members might attend on the days of the monthly executive committee meetings, between 3.45 and 5, when round-table meetings to discuss genealogical problems, experiences and suggestions would take place [653].


The object of the early members was to transcribe and index original material and to make it readily available in one place. They set to with all the infectious enthusiasm of a new organisation and there was an early rapid growth in the collections. The First Quarterly Report of the Society, issued in September 1911, was circulated with The Pedigree Register. It announced, as an example of the way in which work would be channelled through the secretaries of the various committees, that six volunteers were indexing the registered wills of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury for the period 1790-1800, the Committee on the Consolidated Index having obtained permission to carry out the work [654]. In fact only the year 1792 seems to have been completed [655]. By September 1911 more than a hundred parish registers had had or were having their entries written on slips and filed in the Index.

One of the new organisation's first printed notices contained instructions for those who wrote slips intended for the 'Great Index to records in official custody, to MS collections and to un-indexed and imperfectly indexed books'. This held that a tombstone was a 'document in official custody', and gave examples of completed 5" x 3" index slips 'procurable of the Library Bureau and used all over the world' but freely available from the Society, stressing the importance of uniformity, clarity of writing and dates, and the need to show the source (or 'authority') of the information [656]. Sherwood, like Gerish, was an obsessive writer of 5" X 3" index slips. In November 1911 he was authorised to lend loose documents, pedigree charts, etc., the property of the Society, to members for cataloguing and indexing [657]. A major sort of the slips took place in the summer of 1912 when it was reported that the index contained (apart from the Cookson collection) some 79,440 entries [658]. Later that year it was suggested that the names of subscribers to early printed volumes might be slipped and that those of the 12,000 subscribers to Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of England (1831), probably the longest list of the kind, should be entered [659]. The Place Index was at that time somewhat neglected and contained not more than 12,000 slips in one alphabetical series, but in 1914 a major reorganisation took place, that whole section being recast by county [660].

In December 1912 it was reported that racks had been fitted in the Society’s inner room to hold the drawers of the Consolidated Index, providing enough space for 460 boxes each containing 2,500 slips or 1,150,000 in all. The Society then possessed about half a million slips in what some called the Great Index and others the Consolidated Index. Two hundred thousand blank slips had been ordered and it was thought that an extension to the rooms would soon be imperative. Membership had risen to 207 [661]. However, the time being taken to sort in the continual flow of slips was becoming considerable. In 1918 Gerald Fothergill was working almost every day on the commoner names and in that year alone 34,880 slips were received. Colonel Gervase Francis Newport-Tinley, of Farnham, an active member whose death was reported in 1918, had contributed over 100,000 slips [662].

The generosity of the early members was notable. Many complete runs of periodicals were given: Charles Bernau and George Apperson gave long runs of the publications of the Society for the Preservation of Memorials of the Dead in Ireland; Colonel Gilbert Parry gave almost complete sets of the printed parish registers of Shropshire and Staffordshire; Dr Bradbrook gave a set for Buckinghamshire [663]. Some 86 volumes of the Gentleman’s Magazine 1731-1817 were purchased in 1912 [664]. Bernard Scattergood gave a complete set of the Yorkshire Parish Register Society volumes in 1913 and offered to subscribe to Phillimore’s Worcestershire Marriage Series if another member could be found to bear half the cost [665]; Mr McDowall gave the 14 volumes for Hampshire [666]. Miss M. E. Noble gave twenty volumes published by the Parish Register Society [667]. Sidney Chesshyre Bristowe gave an original parchment Tithe Book for Ifield, Sussex [668].

Few volumes were purchased but they included the List of Bankrupts 1774-1786 and some fifteen poll books [669], Charles Bernau giving the first three volumes of the revised Complete Peerage which had commenced publication in 1910 [670]. In the early part of 1914 other purchases included the first nine volumes of the Catholic Record Society and 197 volumes of the Phillimore Marriage series. A list of other needed volumes was published prior to the intended move ‘later on in the year’ [671]. By the end of the War the Society was itself subscribing to the main serial publications of bodies such as the British Record Society, the Catholic Record Society, the Harleian Society and the Huguenot Society, and in 1918 alone some 799 volumes were received [672]. Members who wished to sell or exchange genealogical books were encouraged to display them on an allotted shelf in the library, on condition that they were clearly priced and could be used by others [673].

Many groups of original deeds were received, including in 1912, from a firm of solicitors, about 2,500 relating to the eastern part of Kent, some dating from the 14th century [674]. Consequently a form of application to landowners was devised in July 1912, inviting them to deposit with or give to the Society any ancient deeds for which they had no further use. Two hundred and fifty copies were printed in August for circulation by the Librarian, he addressing letters to advertisers offering properties for sale [675]. The ‘enveloping’ of the Kent deeds was a fairly major task and in March 1913 bundles of a dozen or two dozen were being sent out to interested members to work on at home [676]. Later that year a further 600 deeds relating chiefly to Newark, Nottinghamshire, were received from a Fellow, Frederick Arthur Wadsworth (died 1926) [677]. In December 1917, the Society having received more than 1,100 deeds during the last month or so, an appeal was made for members willing to ‘envelope’ them, by writing on envelopes provided the names of all the people and places mentioned, the Society being glad to send out parcels of 25, 50 or 100 deeds for this purpose [678]. In September the following year it was reported that Colonel Phipps and Dr Bradbrook were enveloping large numbers of them [679] and in December, John Laybank Glasscock, the historian of Bishops Stortford, enveloped and presented fifty original documents relating to the parish, 1437-1824 [680].

Monumental Inscriptions

The first meeting of the Committee on Monumental Inscriptions took place on 31 January 1912 when Richard Holworthy, who had copied the inscriptions at Bromley, agreed to be Secretary. A bibliography of those places already copied was a basic requirement and Holworthy worked on this at the same time as writing to county societies for details of any transcripts of which they were aware, but received little response [681]. The Revd Charles Moor took over as Secretary in 1913 and the bibliography then showed that about 1,000 parishes had been copied, the names in the copies received being indexed, as far as possible, into the Consolidated Index. Those copies held by the Society were listed in the Annual Report that year [682].

In 1913 Moor circulated the Borough Councils in the county of London asking what transcripts of monumental inscriptions of closed burial grounds they had amongst their records, receiving information from twenty-eight authorities. Those at St Pancras were particularly helpful and Colonel Parry (mentioned below) was able to transcribe for the Society and make index slips for all the grounds in the Borough [683]. In the 1930s the Society published a valuable bibliography, drawing on the details received and others collected from members at the time, listing the known copies in the City and county of London in The Genealogists’ Magazine [684].

Many early members of the Society were involved in this work and made valiant efforts not only to record the tombstones in their local churchyards but sometimes more extensively, wherever they went, on their travels at home and abroad. By so doing they preserved for posterity information that in many cases has long since been lost. As a result the names of some early members will be familiar to genealogists working in particular areas today. Many names spring to mind: Frederick Simon Snell (1862-1914) in Berkshire, Arthur Weight Matthews (1865-1937) as 'Ye Olde Mortality' in Bedfordshire (noteworthy for his beautifully crafted little volumes), the Revd James Harvey Bloom (1860-1943) in Herefordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Yorkshire, Charles Partridge (died 1955 aged 83) in Suffolk, Frank Charles Beazley (1857-1931) in the Wirral, Percy Charles Rushen (1874-1962) who copied 60 churchyards in the City of London [685] and Arthur Jewers, already mentioned, who did those in the City churches themselves. Others, like John Beach Whitmore (1882-1957), made great numbers of extracts in many churches, or like Charles Hall Crouch carefully copied just one or two large churchyards. Yet others, more recently, are mentioned below.

Although not a member of the Society, Arthur Leveson-Gower (1851-1922) had copied great numbers of inscriptions overseas when in the Diplomatic Service in Germany in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and had communicated his findings to the genealogical periodicals of the time. An indefatigable Founder-Fellow, Lieutenant-Colonel Gilbert Sidney Parry (1843-1920), retired from the Royal Artillery, continued his work and copied the English inscriptions in such places as Tenerife, Bellagio, Florence, Milan, Naples, Sorrento, Malaga and Mentone, between 1904 and 1913 [686], as well as being active about the library and card indexes generally.

In the West Indies, James Henry Lawrence Archer (1823-1889) who was apparently born in Scotland but had many ancestors in Jamaica, did some important pioneering work when there on Army Half-Pay [687]. ‘In two campaigns among the burial grounds of Jamaica’, as Philip Wright later wrote, in 1858 and 1864-5, he copied or caused to be copied more than two thousand inscriptions (about half of which have since disappeared) which were printed in his Monumental Inscriptions of the British West Indies (1875), a book that, Wright thought, even allowing for all the difficulties involved, ‘contains more than its fair share of errors’ [688].

Lawrence Archer was followed by Vere Langford Oliver, another Founder-Fellow of the Society, who produced a book with the same name in 1927 having earlier published the inscriptions on the Island of Barbados (1915). Oliver, mentioned above in connection with the manuscripts of Vernona Smith, had married in 1885 a niece of the immensely wealthy patent medicine vendor and College founder, Thomas Holloway (1800-1883). Oliver was in the West Indies in the 1880s and 1890s and, in collaboration with John Valentine Bromley (died 1941, aged 86), who had joined the Society in 1912, he published much material on St Kitts [689]. Bromley had married in 1898 Aymee Martha (died 1948, aged 84), the youngest daughter of Thomas Berkeley, CMG, a leading planter and member of the Legislature of St Kitts, and she was interested enough to continue her husband’s membership of the Society through the War until her own death in 1948 [690].


Another object of the new Society was to endeavour to secure by legislation the preservation of public and private records 'and particularly by urging upon the possessors or custodians of such records the necessity or expediency of arranging, cataloguing, calendaring and indexing them, and taking reasonable steps to ensure their protection from fire, injury or theft, and to allow free and ready access to them'.

In this connection the Revd J. Leonard E. Hooppell (died 1936) represented the Society at the Congress of Archaeological Societies at Burlington House in July 1911 when the Congress 'again decided to ask the Government to direct that arrangements should be made by the authorities at Somerset House, so that access to all documents, ecclesiastical as well as probate records, for literary study, might be given in the same way as at the Public Record Office' [691]. Immediately following that meeting it was agreed in September that the Society should be represented at the meeting of the Congrés Universal des Sciences Auxiliares de l'Histoire to be held in London in April 1913 [692].

This was the five-yearly congress that Bernau had been involved with at Berlin in 1908, but it was now called the ‘International Congress of Historical Studies’ and held 3-9 April 1913, being officially sponsored by the Government with King George V as Patron. The plenary sessions were held in the Old Hall of Lincoln’s Inn and there was an opening dinner at the Hotel Cecil. The congress attracted many distinguished overseas visitors known to Horace Round, but few of the talks were published. We are not told if Bernau attended but Sir Thomas Troubridge represented the Society and read a paper at Burlington House on the Society’s scope and objects [693]. Amongst the 194 papers delivered at the nine sectional meetings, held at different locations across London, was that by Round on ‘Historical Genealogy’ mentioned above but not printed until 1930. A young Hilary Jenkinson (1882-1961) spoke on ‘Palaeography and the practical study of Court Hand’ and Robert Whitwell first put forward his ideas for a new Medieval Latin Dictionary. The congress, was criticised as ‘Parish Pump History’ for its approach and parsimony [694] and although about 500 delegates were received at Windsor Castle on Saturday the King, in mourning for the King of Greece, was unable to be present. The journal Nature wrote ‘it must be accounted a real loss to the general public that the very faulty organisation of the congress, combined with our insular aloofness and the ignorance of modern languages which is an accepted item of English education, has prevented the meetings from receiving their due share of attention’ [695].

The Society's Second Quarterly Reportond  in December 1911 noted that a committee had been appointed to communicate with the Registrar-General and others with a view to gaining access to the Census Returns of 1841 and 1851 [696]. It seems likely that Gerald Fothergill with his interest in more modern records was the leading man in this lobbying. Soon after the passing of the Old Age Pensions Act in 1908, the General Register Office had come under considerable pressure from the Pension Authorities to allow the census returns to be searched to determine the ages of claimants to the Pension but on 18 January 1912 the Society received a letter from the Registrar General ‘expressing regret that administrative difficulties prevented their being thrown open as desired’ [697]. It was not a decision that Fothergill would easily have accepted though it was clear that there was no room to make the returns available at the General Register Office in Sonerset House.

However, after a good deal of correspondence between the Treasury, the Local Government Board and the Public Record Office, the latter body agreed to take the returns for 1841 and 1851 and to make them available on payment of fees. Accordingly on 6 June 1912 a Principal Clerk at the Home Office, George Atherton Aitken, wrote to Gerald Fothergill to say that ‘the Secretary of State … has authorised the production to the public in the search room at the Record Office of the Enumeration Schedules of the 1841 and 1851 Censuses, on payment of the fees fixed by the Master of the Rolls viz. 1s for one piece, and 2s 6d for each set of 10 pieces’. I was particularly pleased when many years later in 1969 [698], I found this original letter amongst the papers of Fothergill’s step-daughter, Phyllis Shield, at his house in Wandsworth. Initially the number of official searches in the census returns was quite small but, by August 1912, it had so increased that the Public Record Office had to apply to the Treasury for additional staff and in September four additional boy clerks were employed [699]. Amongst genealogists, however, this important decision curiously received little publicity and it was not mentioned in the Society’s Quarterly Reports or in the Annual Report that year. It was not until 1952 that the Society was able to report that the census could be consulted free of charge [700].

As the result of a letter from a solicitor George Edward Moser (1843-1937), of Windermere, about the custody of parish registers and the fees for searches in them, the Executive Committee resolved on 2 November 1911 that 'this Society is strongly of opinion that the Parish Registers of England and Wales, before 1st of July 1837, be vested in the Master of the Rolls, deposited in the Public Record Office, and be open to inspection under the same conditions as other national archives are' [701], not a solution that a gentleman in Windermere would necessarily find most convenient. However, in December it was agreed that copies of the resolution be sent to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and the Master of the Rolls [702].

The Committee on Parish Registers and Marriage Licences first met on 6 June 1911 when Reginald Glencross agreed to be its Secretary and by the end of 1912 the registers of some fifty-six parishes had been entered onto slips for the Consolidated Index but the number of volunteers involved was very small [703]. Glencross circulated all the bishops of the established church to collect information about the fees charged to look at Bishops Transcripts and Marriage Licences in the various diocesan registries. At the same time a start had been made on indexing the Bishop of London’s Allegations for Marriage Licences, commencing in 1750 [704]. In June 1912 it was announced that this scheme was being ‘methodically taken in hand’, some six or seven members being involved in the writing and sorting of slips, but further volunteers were required [705] and in December that year the period 1751-5 was nearing completion [706]. In March 1913 they were being sorted into what was now being called the ‘Great Index’ and another five years had been started [707]. Several members contributed funds to the project and the work was then continued with paid labour [708]. Much of the later work on this series was overseen by W. P. Haskett-Smith and in 1925 it was reported that altogether the period 1700-1785 had been covered (and the typing completed in 1926 [709]) and he was engaged in copying the admissions to the freedom of the Fishmongers’ Company [710].

Reginald Glencross had also given two large volumes arranged by county listing all the parishes in England and Wales, with the dates when their registers began and what had been done towards printing and indexing them [711]. These two volumes, with parish maps that he also devised based on the Ordnance Survey key maps, which together must have taken a considerable time to prepare, were for many years kept up to date and they remained basic reference material in the library for the next sixty years.

On 13 March 1912 the Executive Committee agreed to attempt to purchase at auction Linton’s Gretna Hall Marriage Registers, 1825-1844, with the original certificates and an index, and quickly circulated the members asking for promises of donations. The Society received guarantees totalling £190, but on 29 March the registers were sold at Sotheby’s for the surprising figure of £420 [712].

On 10 July 1912 a report of the Law Society on the Custody of Parish Registers was read to the Executive Committee but the Quarterly Report makes no comment thereon [713].

Royal Commission and Probate Records

The continuing unhappy situation in the Literary Search Department in Room 9 at Somerset House was a major concern to the Society and in January 1913 Gerald Fothergill gave some very cogent written evidence on the subject (and about the conditions in some local probate registries of which he had a fair experience) to the Royal Commission on Public Records appointed in 1910 and chaired by Sir Frederick Pollock [714]. This he amplified with verbal evidence on 23 January 1913, he and Reginald Glencross, elected an Honorary Life Fellow in December [715], representing the Society [716]. It was during the course of the verbal evidence that Fothergill mentioned his many earlier attempts to gain reform, describing himself as 'an awful agitator' [717].

The members of the Royal Commission who went to Somerset House in February 1913 found Room 9 'cold and dark' and noted that the records though 'fairly well arranged ... require extensive cleansing, flattening, repair, and rebinding, whilst there is a considerable residuum of undescribed documents. The state of most of these was exceedingly dirty'. Many were in bundles or sacks, roughly labelled. The then Superintendent of the Room, Francis Warren Xavier Fincham (1861-1931), who had worked in the Probate Registry for many years, reported that the inventories and other loose documents of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury were in 30 hampers and 46 boxes but 'practically untouched for years and covered inches deep in dust' [718]. His verbal evidence was particularly evasive and unhelpful and although he considered Ernest Cheyne's earlier work on the indexes 'a perfect masterpiece' he made several references to 'The Literary' being 'from beginning to end a privilege pure and simple'. If the increase in interest had been foreseen he said, the Department would not have been created. It was 'in the interest of order absolutely necessary to enforce the rule of keeping seats or chairs exclusively for literary searchers' [719]. Although he himself spent time looking at the non-testamentary material which was closed to all others and saw its historical value [720], he strongly defended the decision taken in 1910 not to allow it to be seen. Literary searchers were only to be allowed access to the specific testamentary records for which a schedule of fees (to the other legal searchers) had been fixed. The Commissioners were much troubled and thought the Search Room 'obviously regulated with a view to the receipts from official fees' [721].

Outside London the Court of Probate Act 1857 had also established some forty District Probate Registries and many of the wills proved in the local church courts prior to the Act had been hurriedly distributed amongst these registries. Apart from complaining about Room 9, genealogists had long agitated about the conditions in some of these local registries, though their possible use as district record offices for the deposit of other local material (and the temporary deposit of records for transcription) was advocated by some at the time of the Royal Commission on Public Records in 1912-13. To that Commission Dr Eli Wilkinson Crossley (1864-1942), the Secretary of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, had given evidence about the general lack of indexes and of being kept standing a whole day at Chester, no chair or stool being provided for literary inquirers. At York, where the officials had no interest in the preparation of new indexes, he had to pay for the production of each bundle of wills even though he had permission to index them. He put in two memoranda about the inaccessibility of many records and the lack of any basic guides to the contents of the offices, but suggesting their limited use as 'Local Record Offices' [722]. Ethel Stokes also commented on the conditions in some local registries, saying that searchers were not welcomed at busy times and drawing attention to the difficulties placed in the way of those who wished to compile indexes (as she was doing for the Index Library) [723]. The rules said that literary searchers were to be admitted at local registries if they did not impede the business of the registry and Fothergill told the Commission that at Chester he had been kept out for three weeks running, meanwhile amusing himself at Llandudno, because the officials were 'too busy' to attend to him [724].

The problems with the local registries were highlighted by arguments about the two series of wills proved in the Archdeaconry Court of Richmond which had been brought to London in 1861 and 1874. The wills for the Eastern Deaneries of the Court (relating to the North and West Ridings of Yorkshire) were, on the application of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, sent to the York registry in April 1912 [725]. The wills for the Western Deaneries of the Court prior to 1748 (relating mainly to Lancashire) were in London and the Yorkshire Archaeological Society proposed that they be sent to the registry at Lancaster (which already had the post 1748 wills) but the Council of the Lancashire and Cheshire Record Society declined to ask for them 'as it was considered that the documents were more conveniently accessible in London (where there is a skilled body of professional searchers and transcribers) than at Lancaster' [726]. It was then proposed to transfer these wills to York but there was an outcry from the Lancashire and other societies and it was decided that they should remain at Somerset House. The influential Frank Charles Beazley (1857-1931) of Birkenhead, a founder member of the Society of Genealogists and very active locally (he was Treasurer of the Lancashire and Cheshire Record Society), had meanwhile called attention to the 'regrettable transfer of Lancashire, Westmorland and Yorkshire wills from London to York where', the Society’s Quarterly Report noted, 'they will certainly be less accessible to inquirers' [727]. On 8 May 1912 the Executive Committee had passed a resolution urging the authorities not to make further transfers of ancient records from London ‘where they are chiefly required for purposes of research’ [728]. Following this reasoning, the Society continued for many years to oppose the distribution of material away from London to the provinces.

Also in 1913 the Society had made unsuccessful representations to the Master of the Rolls that the Chancery Proceedings before 1842, the Feet of Fines before 1834 and the Close Rolls before 1842, or to within seventy years of the present day, be opened freely to students at the Public Record Office. The ‘restrictive regulations’ with regard to the registers of births, marriages and deaths at Somerset House since 1837 and the records of the High Court and the Legacy Duty Office which were not sent to the PRO were also matters of complaint [729]. Sir Henry Maxwell-Lyte the greatly respected Deputy Keeper of the Public Records, a historian and keen genealogist, had been elected a Vice-President of the Society that year.

Personalities and Problems

George Sherwood had published his quarterly The Pedigree Register at 2s 6d an issue or 10s 6d post free annually since June 1907 and in September 1911 it had become the 'Official Organ' of the new Society, eight detailed 'Quarterly Reports' being included in its pages or circulated with it until June 1913. In March 1913, however, young Richard Holworthy had somewhat impetuously launched (with Charles Bernau as publisher!) a monthly magazine called The British Archivist saying that a quarterly magazine would take three years to print material that he could issue in twelve months. He intended to print a monthly eight page magazine, each issue containing at least four four-page supplements that could on completion be bound separately [730]. The first of the latter were to be the Protestation Oath Rolls for Middlesex, some Chancery Depositions before 1714 [731] and the Monumental Inscriptions at Bromley. He was helped with brief articles by Arthur Jewers, Charles Bernau, Frank Marcham, Henry Boddington and others and he kept up the regular issues until August 1914, but the number of subscribers must have been very small.

Charles Bernau had meanwhile also been very active in the development of his private business. About 1909 he had started his 'Card Index to the Public Records of England', today known as the 'Bernau Index', and this he now developed commercially, gaining a reputation as a highly efficient record agent on a grand scale. In 1911 he published his Sixteenth Century Marriages, 1538-1600, an index to every marriage during the period in 94 parishes in 26 English counties (1911; 21s 6d) naming 25,000 individuals. He had intended this to be the first of a series of volumes that would cover the whole country and include every known marriage prior to 1600. He had even thought to ask 'every Incumbent in one County or all over England' to furnish an index to their sixteenth century marriages for inclusion but he not surprisingly rejected the idea as impractical [732] and Volume 1, taken partly from published transcripts and partly from original registers, was the only one to appear. The duplication of work must have caused those like Phillimore and the members of the struggling Parish Register Society, considerable unease. In his short review Sherwood, quoting Jacula Prudentum (1640), wrote of the book, 'The best of the sport is to do the deed, and say nothing'. [733] That same year, Bernau published for Frank and S. Hitching their two volumes References to English surnames in 1601 and 1602 (1911) each containing about 20,000 entries, more with the idea of localising surnames than identifying particular marriages. It is surprising therefore, that he should have described himself in the 1911 census, without reference to his genealogical activities, as 'steamship chartering agent, employer' [734] and one has to assume that this agency continued to be his main source of income.

It is difficult to review the history of the Society at this time without gaining the impression that there were considerable differences of opinion behind the scenes. These differences would have been exacerbated by the natural rivalries within the small group of professional genealogists who were actively involved in the Society, particularly as paid professional work became scarcer on the outbreak of War in 1914.

The Society's Annual Meeting in 1913, held in the Council Chamber of the Duchy of Cornwall in Fleet Street on 14 June, was something of a turning point in its affairs. At the meeting George FitzRoy Henry (Somerset), 3rd Lord Raglan (1857-1921), a grandson of the Lord Raglan who commanded in the Crimea and had lost an arm at Waterloo, was elected President in succession to the Marquess of Tweeddale. As a child in 1868-74 Raglan had been a page of honour to Queen Victoria and he subsequently served with distinction in the Afghan War, 1879-80, was Under-Secretary of State for War, 1900-2, and then Governor of the Isle of Man, 1902-19. He had been introduced to membership by Sir Thomas Troubridge (1860-1938), a great supporter of the Society, in December 1911 [735]. Very tall and known as 'Old Honesty' in the Guards, Raglan was said never to have worn a collar-stud or, when he could help it, a frock coat [736].

At the Meeting Messrs Bernau, Fothergill, Sherwood and Snell, were re-elected to the Executive Committee and its membership was increased, the new members including the Revd Henry Denny and Richard Holworthy. There were now 239 members. Sherwood had frequently stressed that the new Society was not to be a publishing one, but at that meeting the newly elected President, Lord Raglan, announced 'we have a valuable list of genealogical documents of a legal nature in preparation for the printer ... I refer to the List of Chancery Proceedings temp Elizabeth, now being compiled for the Society by Mr Holworthy'. Lord Raglan also said that the Society had 'what is probably the largest extant register of living persons interested in various families, so far as Great Britain is concerned. It contains some 4,000 references to people in this country and abroad who take an interest in English genealogy, and we are continually adding to it'. Raglan had clearly been talking to Charles Bernau and seems to have been under the impression that Bernau's Directory and the Society were one and the same thing, which, of course, they were not. The list to which Lord Raglan referred was the Calendar of Chancery Proceedings, Elizabeth, being those suits omitted from the printed Calendar published in 1827/30 by the Record Commissioners (1913) which Holworthy had offered to the Executive Committee on 12 June 1912 when it was proposed to print it in 24-page instalments at 3s 6d per part [737]. The Annual Report for 1913 called this a departure from the Society’s ‘original scheme’ and in the event Sherwood’s counsel prevailed and Holworthy agreed to print the parts in the name of the Society but at his own cost, the first instalment being issued free to members with the September 1913 Quarterly Report, with non-members paying five shillings per part [738]. In December that year the second part was in preparation [739] but Holworthy was still not ready with it by March 1914 [740] and the project then failed with only the first part printed.

One may speculate that relations between the conservative and slowly careful Sherwood and the impatient and unrealistic Bernau were not going too well. Bernau cannot have been pleased that Sherwood's Pedigree Register had become the official organ of the Society and he may have been behind the decision, briefly reported by Sherwood as 'with a view to reaching a new constituency' [741], to transfer that honour in June 1913 to The Antiquary. This popular illustrated quarterly had been edited by Edward Walford in 1880-1 and had attracted a number of early articles by Horace Round but Walford had then left to found the Antiquarian Magazine and Round had transferred his allegiance to that journal. Now under George Apperson's editorship The Antiquary had shown interest in the Society but was devoted mainly to archaeology. However, as a result members of the Society received those copies of The Antiquary which contained the Society's Quarterly Reports [742]. Four such Reports appeared in its pages between September 1913 and June 1914 but the circulation of copies to members proved very expensive (£30-00-10 in 1913 alone) and was then stopped. With the onset of the War, The Antiquary found itself in financial difficulties and it ceased publication altogether in December 1915.

In November 1913, with the new committee in place, it was decided to appoint in each county, honorary local secretaries to look after the Society's activities. In this scheme to reactivate the idea of county secretaries, Bernau's influence is undoubtedly to be detected. An apparently keen young Ivy Woods had become Secretary of the Committee of Local Records at the end of the year when the Annual Report said that ‘developments may be expected’ [743] and in the December issue of The Pedigree Register, George Sherwood printed a lengthy and overly daunting statement about the suggested role of the county secretaries which bears all the hallmarks of a Bernau composition [744]. However, a much watered down version was sent to the members in April 1914 [745]. The statement had said that the business of the secretaries would be to feed the Society with local material but the more reasonable letter enclosed detailed 'Suggestions' as to how members could be the eyes and ears of the Society in their county and how they might promote its interests, suggesting that the members in each county elect one of their number, not a professional, cards being enclosed asking for those interested to signify their willingness to act. The response was disappointing and in June it was reported that many counties were without representation; indeed in two counties, Northamptonshire and Shropshire, the Society still had no members [746].

As fewer Fellows were being elected it had also been agreed in November 1913, as an inducement to new ordinary Members and Associates, that those who paid a guinea a year might, like the Fellows, receive quarterly reports of new material accrued on any three named families, and that Corresponding Associates paying half a guinea might receive a similar report on any one named family [747]. Although one or two people came forward as possible local secretaries there was little enthusiasm for these ideas and the sending of reports to new members was quickly forgotten, the Fellows already paying a higher subscription partly for that very purpose. From 1 June 1914 an Entrance Fee of 10s 6d was for the first time imposed on all new applications for membership [748]. This fee was increased to a guinea on 1 January 1920 [749] when the subscriptions of Town Members were increased from one to two guineas.

With the impending removal of the Society from Sherwood's office, it is perhaps no surprise that Sherwood early in 1914 gave up the post of Honorary Secretary (there was already a paid Librarian-Secretary) and that by April 1914, Miss Grace de Mouilpied had been appointed Secretary in his stead.

Cooperative Searches

In September 1913 George Sherwood had endeavoured to raise a little income for himself by soliciting subscriptions to cover his time in going through the 459 pages of un-indexed West Indian will extracts, 1625-1792, made by the late record agent Mrs Vernona Smith and deposited in the British Library [750]. He asked for 10s 6d for each surname sought. The idea apparently worked well and he repeated this 'co-operative search' early the following year, at the same time as publicising a more ambitious search through the eighteenth century lawsuits relating to Lancashire and Cheshire in the Public Record Office [751]. This would cost each subscriber 10s 6d for every 25 hours spent. A major part of Mrs Smith's large collection of material relating to the West Indies had been acquired by Bernard Page Scattergood (1862-1937) and in 1913 he presented the 45 volumes to the Society where volunteers began to index them into the Great Card Index [752].

In the summer of 1914 Charles Bernau unashamedly copied George Sherwood's idea for co-operative searches and launched from 20 Charleville Road, Barons Court, to which he had moved that year, a Genealogical Co-operative Research Club, the members subscribing a minimum of a guinea or five dollars a year to have specified groups of un-indexed records or books searched, the period covered depending on the number of subscribers. It is not clear when he gave up his steamship chartering agency but he had given up his office in Billiter Square in 1912 and with the outbreak of War in 1914 his agency work would have fallen completely away. He was fortunate therefore that for the next ten years his Research Club was a considerable success. Through his many contacts it expanded into three branches, for General, Local and Minor searches. With typical bravura he had persuaded Lord Raglan, Sir William Bull, M.P. for Hammersmith and Chairman of Singer and Sons, Sir Thomas Troubridge, Baronet, and the herald Sir Henry Farnham Burke to lend their names as 'Council' to the Club, which had Edgar Briggs as Treasurer (as he was of the SoG) and the Revd Ernest Salisbury Whitfield, of Lewisham, as Treasurer for Local Searches. In its first year it provided, Bernau said, 'occasional but well-paid work for nine persons, some of whom on account of the War would otherwise have been without employment' [753].

Larger Premises: Bloomsbury Square, 1914

Meanwhile the Society's membership remained small but the growth of its collections necessitated the first move to larger premises and in the autumn of 1914 two rooms were rented on the first floor of 5 Bloomsbury Square, near the British Museum. Future meetings would be held there for many years. The Annual Meeting on 25 June 1914, as arranged by Grace de Mouilpied, had been held at 4 p.m. at Caxton Hall, Westminster, and the Twelfth Quarterly Report issued that month had announced, 'At Michaelmas the Society hopes to remove to larger quarters, where greater facilities will be possible to readers and volunteer workers, and the exact locality will be given later on' [754].

The move was not, in fact, mentioned in The Antiquary and it is curious that the change of address was not mentioned in George Sherwood's The Pedigree Register. Bernau's name had not appeared in his pages for five years and the launch of Bernau’s Research Club must have caused some concern at the Society. Sherwood was not doing too well and although in December 1914 he had announced his intention of continuing to publish the Register ‘as usual’ from his office in the Strand, ‘sanely keeping the old paths’ as he put it [755], he naturally faced a loss of subscribers and increased costs because of the War [756].

The new rooms in Bloomsbury Square, of which the lease was taken on 29 September 1914, were to be the home of the Society for almost twenty years. The larger one, south facing and overlooking the street, has a round-headed window flanked by two narrow lights matching the narrow 'attendant' windows either side of the entrance immediately below. To reach the rooms from the fine hall with its Ionic columns and white marble floor, one ascended a staircase with an ornate iron balustrade that continued to the top of the building. A fair sketch of the stair by the pen and ink artist Duncan Moul (1863-1927), an active volunteer, was published in the Society's Annual Report for 1923. By a curious coincidence I chanced upon and recognised the original drawing, propped up with other abandoned pictures, in the hall of Gerald Fothergill's house at Wandsworth, after the death of his stepdaughter Phyllis Shield in 1968, and it subsequently hung in my offices at Harrington Gardens and Charterhouse Buildings.

At the time of the move in 1914 many people believed that this dignified, but rather sombre house on the southwest corner of Bloomsbury Square but facing Hart Street (since re-named Bloomsbury Way) had been designed and occupied by the architect Isaac Ware, a well-known follower of Palladio who died in 1766 and that it had later been the home of Isaac D'Israeli, the father of the Prime Minister [757]. However, research had already shown that there was no evidence to support such a claim [758]. The two houses, numbers 5 and 6, appear to form a single house but have in fact always been divided. A former house on the site of number 5 had been occupied from 1704 to 1714 by Dr John Radcliffe, a physician to Queen Anne, whose great wealth endowed the Radcliffe Infirmary [759]. Number 6 had been the home of Isaac D'Israeli from 1817 to 1829 and the future Prime Minister had played as a child in the Square [760]. However, following the publication of Gladys Scott Thompson’s The Russells in Bloomsbury (1940) [761] it seemed likely that the two houses had actually been designed by the architect Henry Flitcroft (1697-1769) who had designed the neighbouring church of St Giles-in-the-Fields and, indeed, Woburn Abbey for the Duke of Bedford, and that appears now generally accepted [762].

The Society's removal expenses came to £18-15-6 [763] and the rent and cleaning here were £100-8-2 a year [764]. Walter Parry Haskett-Smith (1859-1946), a committee member who lived in Russell Road, Kensington, loaned most of the furniture and chairs for the new rooms, but at the end of the War he was beginning to wonder if and when he would get them back and an appeal was made for the gift or loan of further chairs [765]. However, an item for ‘hire of chairs’ continued to appear in the Annual Accounts for at least another ten years. Haskett-Smith, one might mention, had made a lone pioneering climb of Nape’s Needle, Cumberland, in 1886, and has consequently been described as the ‘father of modern rock mountaineering’. He repeated the climb some fifty years later in April 1936 [766].

First World War

The outbreak of War, in the month prior to the move, affected the Society in different ways. Several members fought at the front and many others were engaged in war work at home. The new rooms were much more comfortable and convenient but everyone felt the need for economy. There were, of course, some resignations, but the well-known Marquis of Ruvigny joined in 1915 and at the end of that year membership is said to have stood at 303 though the Balance Sheet shows that a total of 287 members had paid. That number fell to 265 in 1916, had recovered to 282 by 1917, was 321 in 1918 and 380 in 1919. Every expense was curtailed as far as possible and, as mentioned, only the paid services of the Assistant Secretary were retained, she being helped by volunteer committee members [767].

Just before the War the Society had purchased the large series of Phillimore's Marriage Registers [768] and in order to lessen the expense the Library Committee had issued a special appeal in January 1914. This met with a fair response, some £21 1s 6d being received, but in general as little as possible was spent on the library. The unique and important series of Berkshire manuscripts in 51 volumes, bequeathed by Frederick Simon Snell who had died in November 1914, were, however, beautifully bound with the proceeds of his legacy [769]. The appeal to members was renewed in October 1915 when it was said that the Library now contained upwards of 1,800 volumes [770].

At the suggestion of Revd Charles Moor, DD (1857-1944), in the Summer of 1914 the Committee for Cataloguing Pedigrees made an appeal for members to send in copies of their pedigrees to 'be preserved in boxes alphabetically arranged' of a uniform size, written on foolscap paper provided by the Society at a shilling a quire (refunded on receipt of a pedigree!), but it fell on deaf ears [771], producing only 7s 3d [772]. Good paper became extremely expensive during the War when many ledgers and cashbooks fell victim to the constant salvage drive.

At the Annual Meeting held at the Society on 25 June 1915 the resignations from the Executive Committee were ‘announced and confirmed at their own request’ (a curious wording used by Richard Holworthy) [773] of the Chairman and Honorary Treasurer, Edgar Briggs, of Charles Bernau, of Richard Holworthy and of Sir Thomas Troubridge, all considerable losses to the Society and evidently again the result of some internal argument, perhaps over the various journals, in which Bernau and his friends had not got their way. Bernau and Briggs were now much engaged in the former’s Research Club.

Bernau’s formal involvement with the Society of Genealogists now ceased altogether. He had been a member of several of the earlier sub-committees of the Society but he played no major part in any one of them though as secretary to that on family associations he collected details of the societies in America [774]. In 1913 he gave index slips to the marriage registers of his home parish at Walton-on-Thames, about 1,100 entries for 1639-1777 only, but they showed only the surnames and had not even been sorted into order [775]. That is hardly what George Sherwood had in mind!

With the advent of the War, Richard Holworthy was beginning to think that ‘there are duties more urgent than the publication of a genealogical magazine’ [776] and that it would probably be necessary to delay the publication of his The British Archivist. He produced one issue, dated September 1914 to June 1915, and then ceased publication until April and May 1920, these last two issues fulfilling his obligations to his subscribers. The April issue contains a note from Charles Bernau, revealing himself as the journal’s ‘publisher’ and announcing its fusion with Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica under the joint editorship of Richard Holworthy and A. W. Hughes Clarke [777]. They produced a final title page and index to their twenty-four issues in December 1921.

The circulation to members of copies of The Antiquary containing the Society's Quarterly Reports had ceased in 1914, but the Executive Committee was anxious to keep in touch with members and decided the following year to hold a series of Quarterly Meetings. The first was held in the library at Bloomsbury Square at 4.30 pm on Friday, 22 October 1915, with tea provided by a member at 4 pm. Colonel Parker, CB, took the chair and Dr Charles Moor, read a paper on 'The modern uses of armorial bearings', there being about thirty-five members and their friends present. These included Gerald Woods Wollaston, then Bluemantle Pursuivant [778], Sir Henry Howorth, President of the Royal Archaeological Institute [779] and the architect Earl Ferrers [780]. George Sherwood thought the talk ‘surprisingly interesting’ and wrote warmly of its delivery [781]. Dr Charles Moor, an active member of the Society for several decades, had retired from his clerical appointments in 1901 to live in Lexham Gardens, Kensington, writing a History of Gainsborough (1904), Erminois (1919) and then editing the five volumes of the Knights of Edward I (1929-32) for the Harleian Society [782].

The meeting being a fair success, Moor's paper was printed with a preface outlining the state of the Society in December 1915. The second of what became a regular series of meetings with published texts at 6d each was organised for 21 January 1916, with Herbert J. T. Wood (1863-1919) speaking on ‘Elementary Welsh Genealogy’. It was well attended though George Sherwood thought that the strings of names found in Welsh genealogies were like strings of onions and devoid of all interest, saying that the value of a pedigree ‘depends upon what it tells us of the people who figure in it’ [783]. Three years later Sherwood spent time trying to sort the collections of Welsh pedigrees received from Joseph Morris (died 1860), of Shrewsbury [784], from Philippa Swinnerton Hughes (1824-1917) [785] and from Herbert Wood (just mentioned) and decided not to include them in the main Document Collection [786].

It proved difficult to persuade further speakers to come forward but those lectures that were published were the Revd Henry Denny's 'Anglo-Irish genealogy' in May 1916, George Sherwood's 'How to make pedigrees interesting' in November 1916, and Walter Haskett-Smith's 'Surnames' in March 1917. The printed versions were not great money-spinners though the first two were advertised in The Church Times [787] and several were publicised ‘post free 8d’ in 1920 [788]; that by Charles Moor was still in print in the 1960s. Further talks in 1918 were by Dr Bradbrook on 'A scheme for a Dictionary of Surnames' and two by the Revd Harvey Bloom, 'Genealogical work in the Midlands' and 'Vicissitudes of families', but it was not proposed to print them 'during the present dearth of paper' [789] and they remained unpublished [790]. These ‘Quarterly Meetings’ continued to be publicised as such until December 1923 when it was said that those country members who intended to come should apply to the Secretary for invitations in advance, something not previously stated. The suggestion that talks on the records of the War Office, Admiralty and Clerks of the Peace might prove acceptable found no volunteers [791]. Lecture meetings tended afterwards to be held between October and April, but not always regularly.

The notice of the first meeting in 1915 announced also the formation of a Committee for Members' Interests to which inquiries received by the Society would be referred. It would consist of amateurs and no fees would be charged. The notice asked for those who had special knowledge on particular subjects to let the Secretary know and added that Members 'are aware that there are in the Society a few professional genealogists, whose names may be obtained on application to the Secretary, in case special researches are desired'. George Sherwood called it a ‘Committee of Amateur Genealogists to advise beginners how to set to work’ which probably gave a better idea of what it intended to do [792] but it was not mentioned again.

In April 1916 the Society's Committee voted a small sum towards indexing the personal estate suits in Chancery Proceedings, Mitford Division, and was able to send several hundred entries as 'interests' to members [793]. An undated circular, 'Original Research', signed by Constance Agnew but obviously Sherwood's composition, appealing for funds with which to sponsor the slip indexing of the PCC wills 1651-60, was also sent out, emphasising that 'to print these facts is economically a mistake'. A start was then made on abstracting the first year and in June 1918 it was said that the work was costing 25s a week. By September two thousand wills had been abstracted, the appeal having produced £34 [794]. A note with the circular in 1916 said that a recent appeal to Members to copy monumental inscriptions had resulted in copies from more than 277 parishes being received, many being completely covered, and that more than 1,000 original deeds had been received and filed.

Sherwood returned to the attack on the subject of the Society not being a printing one in a letter to The Spectator in November 1918 where, acknowledging that it was a 'pretty subject for controversy', he stressed the point that 'criticism has been directed to the Society's declaration that it is not a printing society, like, for example, the excellent Harleian and the British Record Societies. Our position is, especially at the present juncture, we believe that more useful work can be done by collecting material than by printing it, and that matter can be collected and made readily available for reference much more rapidly, at a tithe, a fiftieth, or a hundredth part of the cost of printing' [795].

The Annual Report for 1918 also spoke of the 'urgent need for economising labour and paper' and said that 'for patriotic reasons, the Quarterly Reports are not being printed at present'. In fact, they did not appear again. In June 1917 the Society had started publishing Quarterly Queries. These were only folded sheets, each of four pages, but they soon became the simple media through which to report progress to the members. The thankless task of editing them fell to the Revd Thomas Dale [796] and they continued until December 1924 when the last one noted, 'it is hoped to issue this paper in a much enlarged and more interesting form next year' [797], the first reference to the projected quarterly Magazine.

In his December 1914 issue of The Pedigree Register Sherwood had surveyed the records’ world in a lengthy review of the Reports of the on-going Royal Commission on Public Records but the Commission’s valuable recommendations came almost to nothing because of the War. In May 1916 he produced an index to his third volume of The Pedigree Register and sadly ceased its publication, though he hoped to renew publication when the War was over. The death of Sir Lionel Carden (1851-1915), a former British Minister at various places in Central America, at the age of 64 in October 1915 had been ‘a heavy personal misfortune’ to him. Carden’s unvarying kindness and interest in the subject had, Sherwood wrote, been uplifting and encouraging and in an unusually warm tribute Sherwood greatly mourned his loss [798].

That January 1916, Sherwood had launched a weekly bulletin called Dramatis Personae: new discoveries in Biography and Genealogy, consisting of loose, typed, quarto sheets that he supplied to friends at a shilling a time, the material being taken from a variety of documents and, 'Giving the names of those who took part in the minor dramas, comedies, tragedies and ordinary domestic affairs of the English from time immemorial, and showing from whence further details may, by the curious, be obtained' [799]. He had thought of it as a weekly periodical but the exigencies of record searching and the frequent difficulty of getting at original documents, made the plan impracticable, so in 1917 he invited subscribers at a rate of one guinea a hundred sheets and pro rata, beginning at any time, sixpence being added for postage ‘and a neat portfolio in which to keep them until they are bound’ [800], but the scheme did not proceed beyond the first few numbers.

In March 1916, Sherwood had also launched, as 'a War-work relaxation and a War-time economy', a scheme to abstract all the names mentioned in the PCC wills for the year 1750, hoping to find two hundred subscribers who would each pay a guinea for which they would receive about 4,000 names from a specified group of counties [801]. He believed that 1750 was 'roughly the beginning of a period when much of the migration of modern times, so baffling to the genealogist, took place'. As previously mentioned he published these names in a volume in 1917 but there was no call for further volumes as he had hoped, though Snell had started listing the names in the wills proved in 1751.

In another attempt to attract subscribers and following in his earlier footsteps, George Sherwood then launched The Pedigree Directory 1917: a list of pedigrees and of those interested in pedigrees, in one alphabet, published at 2s 6d. A sub-title described the 71-page booklet as ‘A key to the vast store of information in private hands’. Sherwood saw it as a development of his earlier Genealogical Queries and Memoranda to which it was very similar and he solicited insertions for an intended 1918 edition, but sufficient numbers were again not forthcoming.

In November 1916 Bernau was very annoyed to find that another un-named record searcher had copied his idea for co-operative searches and he sent out a circular saying that 'neither this Club nor myself has any connection whatever with him or his proposed schemes'. The identity of this person is not revealed but it seems to have been Bernau's friend Richard Holworthy who had put the The British Archivist on hold and was now the Genealogical Editor of The Connoisseur. Holworthy, still not yet thirty, was promoting a very similar co-operative scheme, though at a much lower rate of pay, through a series of articles about genealogical sources in the latter magazine.

After the War Bernau continued to prosper and in 1918 brought in his first wife Rosa as a partner in the Research Club. Together they acted as its main record searchers and their daughter, also called Rosa, became involved in the work. For the Local Search Branch they had noted all the deponents in the Exchequer Depositions by Commission 1559-1800 [802], publishing the early results in three volumes of Exchequer Deponents 1559-1695 (1916-18). In 1921 he completed an eight-year search through (and slip index to) the 114,849 names of plaintiffs and defendants in Chancery suits for the period 1714-1758, for which he had received subscriptions from about 150 people. That year he also published a Genealogical Register in which the members of the Club registered their 'interests'. This quickly ran through four editions, giving him the idea that it might gain as great support as had the International Genealogical Directory [803].

Bernau's Research Club continued into the mid-1920s, his 50th Local Search being completed in October 1924, but his slip index had grown so large that he was soon forced to leave London in order, as he wrote, to provide it with reasonably cheap accommodation in the country. By 1927 he had moved from the Barons Court and Fulham area, where he had lived since marriage, to a house that he called Bartica (presumably named from his father's time in British Guiana) in the remote village of Breage near Helston in Cornwall [804], though he retained rooms at 59-60 Chancery Lane until 1929 and his daughter Rosa continued with them until her marriage in 1931 [805]. At Breage he was far less active, though in 1932 he published a booklet, ? County, to publicise his index and in 1946 he reported that he had indexed the 30,000 people mentioned in the PCC wills proved in 1721 [806]. It was the only time that he advertised in The Genealogists’ Magazine but he still described himself as ‘Searcher in the Public Records’ in the 1939 Register. His wife Rosa had died in 1937 and in 1939 he married a widow, Dorothy Marian Jenkins (nee Thomas) [807]. He died in Penzance Hospital from Breage on 28 December 1961, aged 83 [808]. As is mentioned below, not long before his death he offered his vast index to the Society of Genealogists for a very modest sum and the purchase was carried out a few weeks before he died [809].

By curious chance Holworthy had died earlier that same year. In the late 1920s Richard Holworthy, no doubt with the anniversary of the Great Migration to America in mind, had, with the American genealogist, Charles Edward Banks (1854-1931) [810], launched an Anglo-American Records Foundation, intending to search out and publish British records of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries relating to the founding of the American colonies. He approached for support people such as the steel magnate Myron C. Taylor (1874-1959) and gathered a subscribing membership, publishing Banks's Able men of Suffolk 1638 (1931) and Dorothy Shilton's and his own High Court of Admiralty Examinations 1637-8 (1932), but the enterprise seems to have foundered following the death of Banks. Holworthy was elected a Fellow of the Society of Genealogists in 1932 but allowed his membership to lapse before the Second World War, making something of a name for himself as the 'record keeper' [811] or archivist to Kent County Council. The Society received some of his papers (including those of his relative Arthur Jewers) in 1962 [812].

A plan to publish a Roll of Honour of those members who had taken an active part in the War was announced in the Annual Report for 1918 [813] and in subsequent Reports to March 1922 [814] but subsequently abandoned, it being decided to engross the list so that it could be framed and hung in the rooms [815]. That plan also seems to have been abandoned in due course.


At the end of December 1915 the membership of the Society stood at 303, in 1920 it was 406, and in 1925 it was 681. By 1930 it had grown to 860. In the first year of its existence the American genealogist William Bradford Browne (1875-1953) of Blackinton, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, urged that a more definite appeal be made to other Americans by pointing out that the Society hoped to identify emigrants to America with their places of residence in the British Isles and the families to which they belonged [816] and by 1919 there were twenty-three members in America, the largest group outside the British Isles, though Browne himself was not amongst them.

An analysis of the membership list printed in August 1919 (the first since before the War) [817] shows that there were, in addition to those in America, fifteen members in Ireland, six in India and one in Ceylon, five in Scotland, four in Australia, two each in Canada and France, and one each in Portugal and South Africa. Of the total membership of 380 in 1919, there were only thirty-four women. Some 22 of the original members named in the Articles had died or resigned. The number of Fellows included in these figures remained at about 100 until at least 1920 but the number of Associate Members (also included), 83 in 1918, rose to 92 in 1922, the subsequent Annual Reports not providing a breakdown of the figures, nor for some years after 1930 giving any total figure at all.

At the turn of the century the Mormon/LDS Church had less than 5,000 members in the British Isles and after the First World War there were even fewer here [818]. However, amongst the Society of Genealogists' early women members was the very remarkable Susa Young Gates (1856-1933) [819], of Salt Lake City, a daughter of the Church's President, Brigham Young. In 1893 the Church's then President, Wilford Woodruff, a keen genealogist, had affirmed the importance of eternal family units, the necessity of sealing families under priesthood authority, and the obligation of Church members to trace their lineages for that purpose. The foundation of the Genealogical Society of Utah in November 1894 had followed closely on these revelations. It is to Susa Gates and to Joseph Fielding Smith (1876-1972) that much of the credit for the early work of the GSU is due.

Gates, the mother of thirteen children, was active in many fields, teaching, writing and publishing, and was well placed to increase the influence of the GSU within the Church, working tirelessly to that end, but the GSU was not at that time funded by the Church and it was the Relief Society that was responsible for promoting genealogy amongst Church members, for many of whom it had a low priority.

After a serious illness in 1901 Gates devoted herself to temple and genealogy work, helping to found the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, being elected its President and becoming aware of the GSU and its library in 1904, besides compiling a thirteen-volume history of the Young family. She instituted genealogy classes at the Lion House and, from 1907, wrote weekly genealogical articles in the Deseret Evening News. In 1908 both the classes and the articles were taken under the wing of the GSU which at that time had just 173 members.

Gates was also prominent in the Relief Society and under her influence it adopted regular church-wide lesson manuals in 1909. The GSU itself published a 45-page Lessons in Genealogy in 1912 and the Relief Society published Gates's Surname Book and Racial History, copies of which were sent to societies and libraries worldwide. I remember finding the copy at the SoG helpful even in the 1950s. The Relief Society went on to organise a genealogical convention in 1913 and the following year some 500 delegates attended a three-day conference in Salt Lake City.

With Joseph Fielding Smith, a GSU worker for nearly six decades (and long after Gates’s death President of the Church), Susa Gates 'exported classes and instructional materials, promoted the growth of local genealogical institutions, started classes at Brigham Young University, and instituted an annual 'Genealogy Sunday' in the Church'. In July 1915 the highlight of the decade for the Church's genealogical programme was when she chartered a train and took 250 Church members from Salt Lake City to the International Congress of Genealogy at the San Francisco World's Fair [819].

Post-War Revival

The great number of committees originally organised at the Society had fallen by the wayside during the course of the War, but in 1919 with the accumulation of work during the ‘weary years of the War’ it soon became apparent that more help had to be sought from the general body of Members and it was decided to reconstitute four of the committees: those for the Index, Library, Heraldry and Finance [820]. Though the Library Committee was to deal with printed and manuscript books and the document collection, the Consolidated Index Committee had charge of the index, parish registers, marriage licences, school and apprentice registers, migrations, monumental inscriptions and the cataloguing of pedigrees, a not altogether satisfactory division. The Society was much handicapped by the high price of labour and materials of all kinds, especially printing, but the Executive Committee thought it highly important to publish a list of the Members (which, as mentioned above) it did in August 1919.

In September 1918 it was reported that Colonel Phipps, Leoline Jenkins Griffith (1863-1938), an insurance broker, and Gerald Fothergill were giving much time to the sorting-in of the index slips and that Griffith was invaluable for reference on Welsh matters [821]. The members of the Consolidated Index Committee had each taken a special subject into their care, the overall Secretary being Griffith who supervised the work and devoted much time to the task of sorting the slips which, due to the War, was in arrears. He attended on most days at 4 pm to show others the ropes. Also in September it was reported that the Revd E. S. B. Whitfield, apart from Shropshire, was taking an interest in the neglected ‘Migration’ slips [822] for which additional material had been requested in March [823] but little was forthcoming until the index was revived by Cecil Brand in 1951. Paid assistance was once more being used to feed the main index and provide ‘Interests’ to members, the money being used to write slips to the PCC wills for 1651, the Bishop of London’s Marriage Licences, and the Chancery Depositions, Elizabeth to Charles I [824].

In 1920 pedigree forms or ‘Birth Briefs’ on which to record parentage to four generations were sent to all the members with the June issue of Quarterly Queries. Additional copies were available at 2s a dozen, postage extra, and the Society was glad to file any copies, even though incomplete, the left-hand page being intended for notes, authorities or proofs of evidence. The spaces on the forms were numbered for ease of reference, odd numbers referring to males and even numbers to females [825]. With the advent of the Magazine in 1925 the surnames from the forms were listed there and indexed accordingly.

Griffith, Fothergill and Dale continued their labour on the large number of incoming slips in 1920 [826] but in 1921 the sorting was again considerably behind [827] and despite the assistance of Colonel Phipps and Messrs Fothergill, Griffith and Sherwood, in 1922 some paid labour had again to be employed to reduce the backlog [828]. The Consolidated Index was, it seems, first called the Great Index in June 1920, but from September 1922 was generally called the Great Card Index [829]. Attention had been drawn to its separate ‘Topographical’ section in December 1919 when a request was made for slips relating to the descent of manors and other properties [830]. During three months in the autumn of 1922 the committee received 6,500 slips of London Marriage Licences from Mr Haskett-Smith, 6,500 of Exchequer Deponents from Mr Knapp, 4,100 of Kentish deeds from Clarence George Paget, of Croydon, and 3,500 from the Canterbury will abstracts by Albert William Waterhouse, of St Leonards-on-Sea [831].

However, much voluntary time was now being spent on the apprenticeship index and in March 1922 an appeal was made for additional help with the Great Index for which a hundred thousand slips still awaited filing and reporting to interested members [832]. The industrious Cregoe Nicholson, who had joined the Society in 1920, then organised a band of volunteers and in 1923 it was reported that they had almost overtaken the arrears which had accumulated during the War. They reckoned then that the Index contained about two and a half million slips, over a hundred thousand being received in the course of the year [833]. The struggle to keep on top of the incoming flow continued, many volunteers being involved. In 1924 the active sorter Colonel Phipps moved for a while to the country and Major E. P. Stapleton contributed 65,000 slips [834], transcribed from those given by Edward Cookson [835]. Nicholson and his band of helpers were still striving to overtake the arrears in 1925 [836].

The donation of books and periodicals continued and included, in 1919, 41 volumes of the Parish Register Society by Harry Pitman, but the works which were purchased included several volumes of the Index Library, Chester wills and marriage licences, Exeter marriage licences, Irish wills, various poll books, a fine set of Wiltshire Notes & Queries, seven volumes of abstracts of Kent Archdeaconry wills 1444-1731, two volumes of office copies of Worcester Wills 1665-1840 from the collection of Sir Thomas Phillipps, and the Suffolk marriages and other material collected by John Robert Hutchinson mentioned above. Dr Bradbrook loaned 67 volumes of the Parish Register Society and volumes 7-32 of the Durham and Northumberland Parish Register Society. Members had been encouraged to send details of known poll books to the Society in March 1918 [837]. In September 1924 it was agreed that the Society would make ‘small searches’ in the printed and manuscript parish registers for a prepaid fee of two shillings, but the book had to be indexed or the year of search given [838].

In March 1919 The Times gave space to a long report on a lecture about book-plates given by Dr George C. Peachey (died 1935) which he had illustrated with many examples hung around the walls of the room. After the talk there had been a proposal that the Society take over the role of the recently dissolved Ex-Libris Society and collect and arrange ‘these alluring little works’ [839]. Inspired by the talk Viscountess Wolseley (1872-1936), the only daughter of the former Commander-in-Chief, who had joined the Society and was elected a Fellow that year, loaned several books on book-plates and gave a handsome collection of them, she being an avid collector [840].

In 1920 six volumes of original apprenticeship indentures, 1641-1749, collected by Frederick Arthur Crisp (1851-1921) in his series Munimenta Antiqua, were purchased and slip indexed [841]. To the latter Harry Clench (1843-1934), of Leytonstone, a retired genealogist and accountant, added in 1924, some 979 further indentures, 1775-1888 [842]. Crisp, who lived latterly at the Manor House, Godalming, had made a fortune as a patent medicine vendor and, I was told by the late Marc Fitch (himself from a family of bakers and provision merchants), that Crisp’s family had a secret recipe for baking and that he would go down to the East End of London early in the morning to mix sufficient for the day but then spent his profits collecting documents, later forming the Grove Park Press in Walworth Road to print extremely fine transcripts and pedigrees.

In 1922 Herbert Foster Anderton (died 1937) gave 44 volumes of the Lancashire Parish Register Society [843] and nine manuscript volumes of the Male Servants’ Tax 1780, of unknown provenance, were purchased [844]. The following year the widow of Cecil Spencer Perceval (died 1920), one of the Society’s founders, gave a long run of the Reports of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts and Frank Charles Beazley gave thirty volumes of the Lancashire and Cheshire Record Society publications, bringing the total number of books in the library to about 5,000 [845]. In 1923 the Society had purchased (spending £57-14-9 in the year) a large number of manuscripts that had belonged to Crisp, including 1,226 loose wills and deeds, 613 pedigrees, eight volumes of contemporary and draft copies of wills, 1415-1841, and thirty-six volumes of original bonds, 1582-1876 [846], the bonds being later indexed by Oswald Knapp (1858-1947). In 1922 Lord Raglan had completed the Socciety’s run of Harleian Society publications [847] and in 1925 Lord Farrer gave 42 volumes of the Oxford Historical Society’s Publications [848]. With the start of The Genealogists’ Magazine in 1925 details of the library and manuscript accessions were published there instead of in the Quarterly Queries and Annual Reports. When cumulative indexes to the Magazines were produced every few years they usefully included all these items, indexed by name and by place.

Parish Registers, Records and County Record Offices

Early in 1919 there was a flurry of correspondence in The Times about parish registers. Seemingly unaware of the work of the Society, Montagu Lloyd wrote in February about their preservation and urged their publication in parish magazines [849]. Reginald Glencross immediately replied saying that probably a third had already been printed to 1812 and described the work of the Parish Register Society and of the various local societies, urging the collection of the original registers in London. Dr F. W. Dendy of Newcastle-upon-Tyne said that more support should be given to the local societies, pointing out what had been done in Northumberland and Durham. George Sherwood, however, writing from the Society thought that with the high cost of paper this was not the time to print but that copies should be made to 1837 and deposited in one central place. Ernest Baker, the President of the Greenwich Antiquarian Society, which was printing the early Greenwich registers, thought that public funds should be made available for the purpose [850]. Sherwood wrote again to The Times a few months later giving some idea of the problems encountered by searchers and the various reactions of the clergy to their requests. He noted the great size of some of the London registers and again urged their transcription and the deposit of copies with the Society [851]. The previous month Sherwood had written to the Church Times about the portfolios that the Society was creating for each parish (in its collections by 'Places') and soliciting donations of original documents for filing by surname and place [852].

The First World War had intervened, but Gerald Fothergill had not given up his struggle with the Principal Probate Registry. In April 1920 he sought unsuccessfully to clarify whose authority was required to provide access to the contentious records there [853] and, no doubt urged by him, the new President of the Society of Genealogists, Lord Raglan, wrote to the President of the Probate Court about these records which, as the Annual Report says, ‘have hitherto been jealously guarded from all access’. As a result, the Report says, ‘we have been granted permission, as a Society, to consult the collection’ [854]. In 1920 the Revd Harvey Bloom visited Somerset House and reported on the records [855] but obviously they were in no state to allow access to searchers. When Fothergill was being interviewed by the Evening Post that year (about his discovery of the apprenticeship records) he took the opportunity to say, 'There are still many records of the very highest importance to the genealogist, the antiquarian, and the student of manners lying neglected, unseen, unheeded in Somerset House', going on to describe the records of the ecclesiastical courts [856]. In 1922 he persuaded Brigadier-General Herbert Surtees, M.P., to once again ask the Secretary to the Treasury about the possible transfer of the probate records to the Public Record Office, but was yet again told that this would require legislation [857].

In 1919 the Society had joined the Congress of Archaeological Societies as a ‘valuable medium for the ventilation of matters affecting our interests’ [858], and in 1920 the Society was represented by Lord Farrer and Dr Charles Moor. At the Congress, John Arthur Watson-Taylor (1857-1923) [859], a Fellow who was also a delegate from the Wiltshire Archaeological Society and well known as a Cambridge oarsman in the 1870s [860], made an impassioned appeal for ‘The preservation of old deeds from destruction’ which was reported at length in the Wiltshire Gazette [861]. He spoke about the section of the report of the local records committee in 1902 on the loss of old deeds from banks and the offices of agents and solicitors when large estates changed hands and referred to the report in 1904 of the Historical Manuscripts Commission on the Laing manuscripts which had been rescued from a waste-paper dealer’s warehouse in Edinburgh, as a result of which the General Register House had said that it was willing to 'examine miscellaneous collections of old documents and to keep such of them as may be of real historical interest or in any way suitable for preservation as public records'. But, he said, destruction had continued at a greater pace. Government appeals for old paper had driven up its price from thirty shillings to £14 a ton. With the paper were parchment deeds that were cleaned with lime and sold to be re-used by law stationers, bookbinders, goldbeaters and makers of toy drums, or to be boiled down to make gelatine for use in photographic films and in the size on banknotes. Watson-Taylor thought that the solicitors were largely to blame and the Society of Genealogists had brought the matter to the notice of the Council of the Law Society as a result of which a notice had appeared in the Law Society's Gazette suggesting that disposals of records should take place only after consultation with a local archaeological or other learned society. There were fifty-nine local law societies in England and Wales and he urged that they all be directly approached.

However, suitable places for the deposit of old deeds, other than the Society of Genealogists, remained a considerable problem, though just before the First World War the first county record office had in fact already been established in Bedfordshire. There Dr George 'Herbert' Fowler (1861-1940), a retired professor of zoology from University College London who had bought The Old House at Aspley Guise and become interested in its history, founded a historical society for the county and, in 1913, when Chairman of the County Records Committee, created a muniment room for the deposit of local material which, in reality, was the first county record office. In 1923 Fowler published The care of county muniments, a pioneering work that saw the world through the eyes of the local archivist in distinction to his close friend Hilary Jenkinson's Manual of archive administration (1922) based on work at the Public Record Office which had come out the previous year. An interesting idea, suggested in the Society of Genealogists’ Annual Report for 1922, that privileges of access might be gained to private and semi-private ‘collections of genealogical and biographical fact’, such as were available to members of the National Art Collections Fund, perhaps fortunately made no headway at all [862].

Society’s Staff and Library, 1918-1930

At the Society in London Mrs Annabella Ellen Rowan (1875-1960), who had been trained as a genealogist by Gerald Fothergill, was appointed Secretary the day after Constance Agnew resigned in November 1918. Some £103-9-2 had been paid in salaries in 1918, £89-7-0 in 1919 and £138-19-11 in 1920. Mrs Rowan, the wife of a journalist, Hill Willson Rowan (died 1951),who lived at Hampstead, was much liked and greatly respected for her careful and accurate work. Before being appointed Secretary she had begun to extract all the wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in the year 1651 and she completed the work in fifteen volumes, the subsidiary names being indexed by others into the Great Card Index [863].

With the growth of the library in the two rooms on the first floor at Bloomsbury Square, the Secretary was largely responsible for much of the work but in 1919 two new members of the Library Committee, Lieutenant Hugh William Peel (1887-1975) and Arthur John Christopher Guimaraens (1882-1971), working alongside George Sherwood, had usefully re-arranged the bookcases to increase the space and ease of access to the shelves [864], some additional shelving for books and racks for index-slips being assembled [865]. The Annual Report says that although Harry Anderson Pitman (died 1942), a London wine merchant and generous benefactor of the Society, was the Chairman of the Executive Committee, Gerald Fothergill had continued his valuable work of representing the Committee in the administration of the Society’s day to day affairs [866]. The following year (1920) Sherwood gave considerable time to the arrangement and labelling of the books and Annabella Rowan, supervised by Gerald Fothergill, began to make a much-needed card index by subject [867].

The arrangement adopted, as the Annual Report said, was basically topographical: 'England (under counties), Wales, Scotland and Ireland, Foreign Countries. Exceptions to this rule are the publications of the Learned Societies, and periodical publications, which will be found in their own series, e.g., British Record, Catholic Record, Harleian, Huguenot, The Genealogist, etc., and certain subjects grouped under their respective heads, such as Legal, Heraldry and Book-plates, Parish Registers, Poll Books, School and University Registers, Quakers, etc. Family Histories are under the names of respective families, and other items, not included in the above, under authors alphabetically' [868].

The abovementioned Lieutenant Hugh William Peel, better known in the 1930s as the comedian Gillie Potter, had become a Fellow of the Society in 1918 [869]. He lectured to the Society on 'Old Bloomsbury Square and its surroundings' on 24 April 1924. Arthur Guimaraens, who acted as Secretary to the Library Committee in 1919, had joined the Society in 1912 when a land agent's assistant and had been on various committees. Peel and Guimaraens are sometimes described as the Society's Honorary Librarians [870] but there is no evidence from the Annual Reports of their making any particular contribution after 1919. Guimaraens was also Honorary Secretary of the British Record Society and was often spoken of as a competent genealogist by Cregoe Nicholson, being elected a Fellow in 1955, but he resigned in 1957. The amusing but sometimes tediously garrulous Gillie Potter, still a well-known name and long interested in the subject, opened the Society's Jubilee Exhibition which I organised in 1961.

In May 1920 the Executive Committee approved a draft revision of some of the Articles but these were not registered or put into effect. In November that year it also agreed that the annual subscriptions of members should be increased to two guineas as from 1 January 1921. It also agreed in November that the life membership fee be increased to twenty guineas, but the Committee unfortunately omitted to register the necessary amendment to the Articles with the Company Registrar. The Committee apparently believed that it was entitled to vary the life membership fee in the same way as it could the annual subscription and from 1921 until 1962, when a most unpleasant argument developed, it was the practice for the fee charged to be ten times the annual subscription. In 1929 there was a further suggestion that the fee be related to the applicant’s age and calculated on an actuarial basis but this was not agreed.

Annabella Rowan unfortunately gave up the post of Secretary on 7 September 1921 in order to take on professional genealogical work [871]. She became a member of the Society in 1928 and although she had a severe accident in 1954, she continued to work and was elected a Fellow in 1955, coming to see Lord Mountbatten elected President in 1957. She died aged 85 on 17 February 1960 [872].

Her successor as Secretary, Miss E. Hutchinson [873], was appointed in October 1921. Over the next seven years whilst she was Secretary the membership rose from 420 to 750 and, as mentioned below, the library expanded to fill all the rooms on the first floor. Its cataloguing had continued throughout the year and the general works by Subject were finished and those under Counties commenced [874]. The steady progress was maintained in 1922 when the Parish Registers and Topographical sections were also catalogued. The number of cards written was about 7,000 and it was then said that the catalogue had 68 divisions, the more important being America, Bibliography, Biography, Church, Directories, Family History, Heraldry, Ireland, Manuscripts, Monumental Inscriptions, Nonconformist, Parish Registers, Pedigrees, Periodicals, Records, Scotland, Societies, Text-Books, Topography, Visitations, Wales and Wills [875].

With the growing pressure on space it was decided in late 1922 that some duplicate books should be sold and these were marked at low prices to ensure a ready sale and placed on a table in the Index room. Amongst them were a number of printed parish registers at five shillings each. These were listed in Quarterly Queries but a year later exchanged for other registers to complete gaps in series [876]. In 1923, with the acquisition of a further room at Bloomsbury Square, the parish register collection was hived off and placed in special bookcases there for greater ease of consultation [876]. There was an attempt in June 1924 to reactivate the Committee on Monumental Inscriptions, inspired (if I remember correctly) by Cregoe Nicholson, and an appeal for further transcribers was sent out with the Magazine. Its suggestion that a duplication of work did not matter would not, I think, have inspired potential transcribers.

With the growth in membership and visitors after the First World War the ‘necessity for more space’, as Lord Farrer said at the ‘poorly attended’ Annual Meeting on 27 June 1923, ‘had been pressed upon their attention’ [878] and later that year the Society took and furnished most of the remainder of the first floor at Bloomsbury Square, including an elegant panelled room with floor-to-ceiling windows, some twenty-four feet by seventeen, which had been the drawing room and then (but not now) had a very fine mantelpiece. This room, overlooking the Square, housed the heraldic and Scottish material [879]. It seated about sixty people and the Quarterly Meetings were now held there, extra chairs being hired in for the purpose [880], a further appeal for donations of chairs being made. However, the cost of this much-needed space was a severe strain on the finances, the rental being £160 a year and Sherwood himself paid for an appeal to be printed and circulated with the Magazine [881]. The publication of a new membership list was contemplated that year but a new list was not actually published until 1936 [882].

By the end of 1926 the membership had reached 720 and in the course of that year the Society decided to acquire the lease of a small room between those already held (today a kitchen) and thus to occupy the whole of the first floor of the Bloomsbury Square house. This enabled the rearrangement of the library and document collection. The drawing room, called the East room, was re-shelved and fitted up as the main library and the West room allotted to the Great Card Index. The doors between the rooms were opened up so that the whole area was now self-contained. The total rent and cleaning bill that year came to £402-16-10 [883]. Elsewhere in the building at this time was the office of the English patriotic society the Royal Society of Saint George which had been founded by Howard Ruff in 1894 and which at his death in 1928 had more than 25,000 members in a hundred branches worldwide.

Those who visited the Genealogists’ rooms frequently commented on the pleasant scholarly atmosphere of the old house and of the view over Bloomsbury Square. The Evening News in 1925 referred to the ‘courteous and patient staff working methodically in an old-world atmosphere of peace and quiet’ but wrote of the ‘Palace of Hope’ where the undue hustle of the American visitors was the genealogist’s worst enemy [884]. The article mentions a story which appeared in several papers about a young lady from Boston who was anxious to have her descent traced from ‘Pharaoh’s daughter’. One supposes that this has something to do with the surname Farrar which sometimes appears in that spelling but one wonders if anyone told her that the phrase was also used to describe a courtesan! In a more detailed and illustrated article the following year the same newspaper wrote of people climbing the picturesque staircase full of hopeful family pride and descending them crestfallen as a result of the discoveries made [885]. An interview given by a Society member, almost certainly George Sherwood, to the Nottingham Evening Post the following year calls genealogy ‘a somewhat expensive luxury’ and remarks on the numbers who came not thinking that the chances were that they came from ordinary plebeian stock. If they found no trace of royal blood or nobility, he said, ‘people are usually most disappointed – even resentful’ [886].

Not all was perfect in the rooms, however, and Mrs Blomfield wrote later that Hart Street was ‘both dirty and noisy, and the Lectures either took place in an atmosphere which was most unhealthy due to closed windows, or else in a din of passing traffic which rendered the Lecturer inaudible except to the first two rows!’ [887]. The novelist Anthony Powell (1905-2000), who joined the Society in 1926, wrote much later that ‘The accommodation was decidedly cramped for the number of people who did research, and books and papers were unavoidably in rather a muddle too, owing to lack of space’ [888].

These rooms at 5 Bloomsbury Square, occupied by the Society from 1914 to 1933, were renovated in 2006 when the house was purchased (for £1.5 million) by the Russian Cultural Centre and renamed Pushkin House. I first visited it in 2009 for a quite fascinating and moving production by the Walking Thoughts Theatre Company of Marcelle Maurette's play Anastasia in a new version by Kate Sellers and Andrei Vironov which took place in the former West Room, a very clever and effective use being made of the doors onto that fine central staircase.

School Registers

One of the Society’s committees that failed during the First World War after a short but active period was that on School Registers. Mrs Annie Florence Pitcairn Aman (nee West; died 1939, aged 78), who had joined the Society in February 1913, had been elected Secretary to the Committee on School Registers later that year. She worked on the Index and Library Committees and sent circular letters to many of the older public and grammar schools to collect information about their registers. A small collection of printed registers was also thus begun [889].

After the War, Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh (1872-1961), who was working on the Eton school registers, spoke to the Society in 1919 on 'Editing a school register' [890] and described their genealogical value, urging their editing with care and on some systematic plan. Austen-Leigh, a great-great-nephew of the novelist Jane Austen [891], was himself an Eton scholar and after taking classics at Cambridge had worked for a time as a Clerk in the House of Commons but had then gone into the family printing business. In later life he was President of the Bibliographical Society and of the Huguenot Society. He had joined the SoG in 1918 and was elected a Fellow in 1919. He edited two volumes of the Eton College Register, 1698-1752 (1927) and 1753-1790 (1921) but is probably best known as co-author of a Life and letters of Jane Austen (1913). He resigned his membership in 1938.

The editors of school registers, conducting wide correspondence, were some of the best known genealogists of their day and we certainly owe a debt to their labours. Mentioned later are Sir Wasey Sterry who edited the early Eton College Register, 1441-1698 (1943), William Gun who edited that of Harrow School 1571-1800 (1934) and the very active John Beach Whitmore with his Record of Old Westminsters 1883-1960 and his assistance with the earlier two volumes in that series. A note by Geoffrey Radcliffe in the third volume calls Whitmore ‘the outstanding genealogist of his day’. The first list of transcribed or printed school registers held by the Society was printed in the Magazine in 1929 [892].

Queen Mary, Patron

The Society's President, Lord Raglan, was a first cousin of the Ladies Mary and Margaret Lygon, both close friends and in the Household of Queen Mary, and in June 1919 on Lord Raglan's return to England from the Isle of Man, Queen Mary agreed to become the Society's Patron. George Sherwood later recalled that he 'conferred with Lord Raglan, who induced H.M. Queen Mary' to accept the position [893].

The Queen was well known for a passionate interest in the history of her family and it became a guiding factor in the later years of her life when she continually added pictures and objects of family interest to the Royal Collection. Her interest had been fuelled by her mother, a granddaughter of George III, and fed by her aunt Augusta, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who had attended the Coronation of William IV in 1831 and did not die until 1916 [894]. In 1948 Queen Mary told the Librarian at Windsor Castle that she was the last of the family 'who has a good memory of what the family in 1874 looked like'; she was only seven that year but whenever they visited her mother she had, as she wrote, 'a good stare to take them all in' [895].

Queen Mary remained the Society's Patron until her death in 1953 but never visited its rooms and her intention to come to the 25th anniversary exhibition in 1936 was sadly frustrated by the death of the King. She did, however, take an interest in its activities and at one stage was sent specially bound copies of the Annual Report. She gave some sets of periodicals to the Library and I remember being very amused when later finding that one nicely bound set of something had been placed in store and replaced on the shelves with a not so nice set that she had given, just in case she should call and expect to see it there!

Lord Raglan was the Society's President for eight years. He lived at Usk in Monmouthshire and on the Isle of Man, where at one stage he had 25,000 German internees in his charge, but he took a keen interest in the welfare of the Society and was 'a fairly regular attendant' on its various committees. Having been in indifferent health for some years, he died on 24 October 1921, aged 64 [896]. The Revd Leonard Hoopell and the Revd Dr Charles Moor represented the Society at his memorial service at Wellington Barracks [897] and the new Lord Raglan gave some ninety-seven books from his father’s collection, including many visitations, to the Society [898].

The early death of the meticulously careful Marquis de Ruvigny (1868-1921), who had joined the Society in 1915, was also noted as 'a great loss to Genealogy' in the Annual Report for 1921. Melville Henry de Massue who styled himself, it seems improperly [899], Marquis of Ruvigny and Raineval, is best known for the five volumes of his The Blood Royal of Britain and The Plantagenet Roll of the Blood Royal (1903-11), The Jacobite Peerage (1904) and The Titled Nobility of Europe (1914), but he had earlier been a most ardent and controversial Jacobite legitimist [900]. Horace Round thus considered him ‘a charlatan’ [901] but the Society’s Annual Report said that he was 'a most industrious worker, and, of his many publications, the ambitious attempt to collect all the living descendants of Edward III was a monumental undertaking' [902]. Ruvigny's fellow genealogist, the amusingly provocative and outspoken journalist Oswald Barron (1868-1939), in 'To-days Gossip' in The Evening News, had thought that working on this 'monstrous pedigree' would keep any genealogist 'serenely happy' and it was thus a 'harmless folly', just like, he wrote, the 'hideous craft of fretwork' or the 'precious trash' of the stamp collector! [903].

Baigent Papers

Early in 1920 the Society received from the historian Cardinal Gasquet (1846-1929), through the good offices of the Revd E. Horne, the papers of the Hampshire antiquary Francis Joseph Baigent of Winchester (died 1918, aged 87), relating to about six hundred Hampshire families [904]. Baigent, a keen genealogist from his teenage years and 'the best man in that county for record work' [905], was a godson of Lady Arundell of Wardour, the aunt of Roger Tichborne, whom he knew well, and he was amongst the first to meet the impostor Arthur Orton, who claimed to be Roger, in 1866. Baigent, described as precious, shrill, disingenuous and a busybody, became one of Arthur's warmest supporters and took a prominent part in the famous trial that, turning on the proof of Arthur Orton's identity, was of great interest to genealogists. I have often quoted a comment by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Coleridge, who, when Arthur Orton was asked, 'Were you born in June 1834?', intervened to say, 'I don't think a man can know when he was born' [906]. However, after the first civil trial found against Orton in 1872, Baigent was said to be ‘in an exhausted and wretched condition, broken in health and spirits’ [907] and he took no part in the later criminal trial.

Much of the Society's growth and prosperity in these years was undoubtedly due to the hard work of the Secretary, Miss Hutchinson, and I am sorry not to have any personal details about her but, as with her predecessor, her duties were as much librarian as office assistant and she was always ready to welcome inquirers and to show them how to use the books and card index to best advantage. From 1921 she had the help of her eventual successor, Agnes Webb, and in 1925 the Society was able to pay £178-16-6 in salaries. Together they were busy on most fronts and the Society had a continual stream of press publicity, the library sometimes being advertised in the personal column of The Times (3 lines for nine shillings in 1922). Its meetings, from 1922 often with Lord Farrer in the chair, and its major Magazine articles were regularly reviewed there and in other newspapers, sometimes at considerable length.

Apprenticeship Records

When I first went to the Society some years after these events the story was told that Gerald Fothergill took pleasure in reading those Acts of Parliament that might lead to the creation of records and then making enquiries to see if the records had survived. In this way he found mention of an Act of 1710 that introduced a tax on apprenticeship indentures, made enquiries, and located the records in the basement at Somerset House. The story gained much valuable publicity for the Society in 1921 [908] when it launched a campaign to transcribe and index these 'Apprentices of Great Britain'.

Gerald Fothergill told the Morning Post that year that he had known about the records since 1910 [909] but it was not until December 1914 that he first formally applied to look at them, writing to Samuel Ellison Minnis (1882-1971), then a young Committee Clerk from Ireland in the Secretary's Office of the Board of Inland Revenue, who had described them briefly to the Royal Commission on Public Records in a submission in June 1913 [910]. As a reference Fothergill gave the name of Hubert Hall, the prominent Keeper at the PRO and indeed Secretary of the Commission [911]. Samuel Minnis replied that 'there are numerous volumes and no facilities for examining them in the place where they are kept, [and] it would be a great convenience if you would let me know in advance when you wish to call and for what period you would like to see the records, so that I might have the proper volumes readily accessible'.

Subsequently the Society sent a deputation to Somerset House to see if it could persuade the authorities to allow the books to be more easily consulted and as a result, in August 1920, these valuable records, believed at the time to relate to a million children, were transferred to the Public Record Office. The Society considered them of such importance that it voted £100 towards indexing them on slips. By March 1922 the three lady workers were producing about 3,000 slips a week and members were asked to contribute to the cost but by June progress had to be curtailed (to about 500 slips a week) though by the end of the year the members had subscribed almost £75 and 82,350 slips had been written [912]. The slips were fortunately kept in a separate series and not filed in the Consolidated Index [913].

The apprenticeship tax related to the whole of the British Isles. Its records run to 1804 and give the name of the child's father up to about 1752. Unfortunately a premium was not normally paid when an apprentice was bound to his father or to some other relative and the premiums of parish and charity apprentices were not taxed, so the records are far from complete. The Society organised the writing of index slips and their typing to 1774, but completed the indexes to the names of masters to 1762 only. Volunteer members sorted the slips into order prior to typing and the helpful Duncan Moul, who had been slipping the Bunhill Fields burials, 1823-54 [914], but unfortunately died in July 1927, was responsible for a large part of the early work. Moul was badly missed [915] but his place in the task of sorting was taken by Mrs Grace Hart (died 1950) [916], who had joined in 1924, and who later compiled the Register of Merchant Taylors School (1561-1934) where her husband was Secretary and Bursar.

It was a slow process, but by 1932 slips had been written to 1766 and a 'First Series' of the index to 1762 typed as far as 'Minn' in twenty volumes [917], an index to the names of the masters in the first five volumes having been completed the previous year. By 1935 the index to 1762 (with its 255,000 entries) had been typed as far as 'Smith' in 27 volumes, but the slips for the 'Second Series', 1762-1774, which came in at a rate of 1,000 a month, remained incomplete and largely unsorted. The index of masters in the first twenty volumes had also been typed [918]. The typing of the First Series was completed in 33 volumes in the summer of 1936 when the slips to 1774 were also ready for typing [919], the first typed volume being produced the following year [920].

It was surprisingly not until 1994-5 that the remainder of the masters to 1774 were indexed by a group of volunteers. The less useful registers from 1775 to 1804 remained un-indexed and involved lengthy searches until they were digitised by in 2011.

In spite of his health problems Fothergill had many irons in the fire. He started indexing the Defendants in Chancery 1714-58 and completed the first nine volumes, for which he charged one penny per reference, with a minimum charge of 3s 6d [921]. As well as writing two volumes for Bernau’s Pocket Library he had also compiled from Treasury records found in the PRO A list of emigrant Ministers to America 1690-1811 (1904) giving details of 1,200 ministers and schoolmasters who had received a bounty to travel [922]. That same year, advertising his work, he had put out a leaflet From whom are you descended or have you the right to use Arms?  He transcribed the apprentices in the records of the Paviours' and Cutlers' Companies and, again as we have seen, spent much time in the early days of the Society in sorting slips for the Great Card Index. He died after a lengthy illness on 30 November 1926 [923] and was succeeded in his business and, indeed, in his direct and delightfully forthright approach by his stepdaughter Phyllis Shield (1896-1968) whom I knew well [924].

President and Fellows

Lord Raglan's successor as President, Thomas Cecil (Farrer), 2nd Lord Farrer (1859-1940), elected on 15 June 1922, was a committed genealogist and antiquary. His father the 1st Lord Farrer who died in 1899 was descended from the Farrers of Eawood, Halifax, and had been a barrister and permanent Secretary to the Board of Trade [925]. He himself was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford. As well as being President, Lord Farrer was unusually also elected a member of the Executive Committee [926] and he regularly presided at lectures and meetings, often using the library and collections and frequently contributing to them. He held the office for eighteen years until his death in 1940. It was initially a fruitful period in the Society’s history but latterly his extreme conservatism and Mrs Blomfield's not always welcoming attitude did not inspire the growth in membership that might have been expected.

The original Fellows, as we have seen, paid a higher subscription for the privilege of borrowing printed books and being informed about material on their 'interests' that came into the Library. To the outsider, of course, Fellowship implied that these persons were in some way more 'qualified' than the ordinary members. That idea slowly grew within the Society but no definition of their 'qualification' was attempted until 1979 and this lack of clarity in the Society's constitution caused many problems.

At a meeting of the Fellows held in August 1913 it was agreed that other than in exceptional cases, members would not be elected Fellows until they had been members for a year or had shown themselves valuable members [927], a self-imposed rule that was easily forgotten, particularly as a higher subscription was then due. At their meeting on 29 March 1922 the existing Fellow resolved that in future the names of those members wishing to be elected Fellows should be circulated in advance of the meetings and they were asked to send in their names before 15 August in each year, so that their applications might appear in the September issue of Quarterly Queries [928]. That, however, did not always happen.

The names of two who sought election were noted in September 1922 [929], but one of these 'desired to defer his candidature' [930]. Four more sought election early in 1923 [931] (not all being elected) and then two candidates put themselves forward from Canada and America in June 1923, when it was again stressed that 'Applicants should have some qualifications, such as having published a genealogical work, or done some signal service for the Society' [932]. That notice was repeated in September when there was one applicant [933] and in December it was noted that Lord Farrer would be proposed for Fellowship [934].

Early in 1924 it was announced that the name of Cregoe Nicholson would be put forward at a meeting on 27 March 1924 and it was said that, 'He has given valuable service to the Society as honorary Secretary of the Card Index Committee, and spent much time in organizing fresh workers on the Index'. At the same time it was said that Duncan Moul 'sought election' as a Fellow, having arranged and sorted nearly 140,000 apprenticeship indexing slips and devoted much time to the advancement of the Society's interests [935]. Duncan Moul queried the difference in wording and Quarterly Queries then noted that he had not 'sought election', but that Fellowship had been 'conferred on him by the unanimous vote of the Fellows, in acknowledgment of his many valued services to the Society' [936]. That he thus had to pay a higher subscription for his honour was a point that was not addressed.

Although not all those whose names were published as having put themselves forward for Fellowship were elected, the system continued for some years and caused a measure of concern and unpleasantness, the self-imposed 'rules' being continually changed. At a meeting on 11 February 1926 when prior notice had been given of proposals to elect three Fellows (Dr Arthur Adams, Percival Boyd and Geoffrey White) [937] and the name of Dr Theodore Thomson was brought up at the last minute, it was agreed, when all four had been elected, 'That Candidates for election as Fellows of the Society of Genealogists shall, in future, be proposed and seconded by Fellows or Members of the Society, and the Nominators shall state the grounds on which they consider that the Candidate merits election, which shall be entered in a book to be kept by the Secretary' [939]. Those present again overlooked the fact that the constitution did not allow nominations from Members.

In February 1929 the Revd Thomas Dale, then Chairman of the Executive Committee, wrote to the Morning Post suggesting that the minor scientific societies should follow the Society’s example and only elect to Fellowship, ‘after careful scrutiny …those who have made a real study of the subject’. He said that last year, for example, only two Fellows had been elected and that Fellowship could not be ‘bought with money and represents a real distinction’ [940]. He reverted to the subject at a meeting of the Fellows on 18 December 1932 when he said that too many Fellows were being elected and that the value of Fellowship was in danger of being diminished. He proposed that in future the number of Fellows should not exceed one tenth of the total membership. Only eleven Fellows attended the meeting, but the motion was carried, though two abstained and two dissented [941]. The proposal, again not being in the constitution, could not, of course, bind any future meeting.


In May 1916, at the end of a talk about 'Anglo-Irish Genealogy' the Revd Henry Denny, a founder Fellow and expert on county Kerry who served on the Executive Committee from 1913 to 1933, had voiced his relief that the precious contents of the Dublin Public Record Office had 'come through the recent rising comparatively unscathed'. He had said that, 'When the Four Courts were seized by the Sinn Feiners, books and bundles of documents from the Record Office were used to form barricades. But the majority of the valuable documents, though much tossed about, have not been seriously damaged. Some bundles of wills were thrown out into adjoining streets and were taken away by the residents, not so much, it is thought, as "loot", but rather as curious souvenirs of the rebellion. When these people learned that the authorities were once more in possession of the Record Office many of them brought these documents back to their custodians, and it is hoped that any others taken away will also eventually be returned' [942].

However, after the War the news from Ireland was terrible indeed. Sir Arthur Vicars (1864-1921), a diligent researcher and scholarly writer, best known for his index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland [943], a Vice-President of the Society, who as Ulster King of Arms and Principal Herald of Ireland, had done much for the Irish Office of Arms in succession to Sir Bernard Burke from 1893, but who had been sadly dismissed for negligence in 1908 following the theft of the Irish 'Crown Jewels' from a safe in his office [944], was brutally murdered by a local band of the IRA outside his burning home on 14 April 1921 [945]. A year later on 30 June 1922 the Four Courts complex in Dublin, which included the Public Record Office of Ireland and had been used for storing ammunition by the 'irregular' anti-Treaty forces, was bombarded and burnt to the ground [946].

There was an immediate rush to collect Irish material and our member William Henry Welply (1886-1960) of Rantarlard, Whitehouse, Belfast, gave a large collection of abstracts of Irish wills [947] to which he added over the next twelve years until there were eighteen typescript volumes, known as Irish Wills and Pleadings 1569-1859. Their value was considerably increased when Monnica Stevens, with my encouragement and assisted by the Computer Group, organised a composite every-name index to all the volumes in 1985-7 [948]. Welply was interested in the family and descendants of Edmund Spenser and lectured to the Society on that subject in October 1922 and again about the little-known artist George Chinnery in 1925.

Publicity and Visitors

In 1924 the Society commenced a small advertising campaign by placing various notices in the personal column of The TimesCountry Life and even in the Boston Evening Transcript. It seems also to have targeted some newspapers with short articles about its work and indexes. A short note in the Evening News early in 1925 saying that it had ‘full records’ of two million different surnames [949] produced, as George Sherwood carefully noted, some 120 inquiries. In July 1925 Sherwood made a ‘comprehensive search’ of the Society’s collections for the Daily Chronicle in connection with the death of William Newton Shansfield, a Parliamentary journalist, who had claimed, it appears correctly, to be the last bearer of that surname as only likely variants of the name were found [950].

The search for a pedigree has, since the nineteenth century at least, been something associated with the American visitor to the British Isles. A typical piece of snide journalism based on this belief appeared in the Morning Post in the summer of 1924: 'Pedigree hunting, always a favourite sport in the United States, is exceptionally attractive to Americans in London just now, and has brought a little ripple of badly-needed "affluence" to the pathetic folk who work at cataloguing and philological and general research in the British Museum Library to the order of chance patrons. For the really good pedigree, your American business man pays a really good price, and many of his hearty and optimistic kind are to be seen in the library of the Society of Genealogists in Bloomsbury-square, seeing what can be done for them. Needless to say, the Society does not manufacture pedigrees. But it discovers them sometimes' [951].

Two years’ later the Daily Mail, apparently prompted by someone at the College of Arms, warned the growing number of American visitors that although it was a praiseworthy instinct that made people interested in their ancestors, ‘pedigree hunting’, if a fascinating pursuit, was also one requiring much labour and great expert skill, and that it was scarcely surprising to hear that every year numbers of Americans returned home with imposing but bogus pedigrees prepared for them by unscrupulous persons, more interested in fees than in precision. The American visitor, the newspaper’s Leader said, who was provided at short notice by an obliging stranger with a complete and splendid account of his family would be well advised to treat it with a good deal of scepticism [952].

The Genealogists’ Magazine

In August 1924 it was agreed to drop the 'of London' from the name of the Society, something that was even reported in The Times [953], and to expand the series of Quarterly Queries into a quarterly journal, The Genealogists’ Magazine. Notice of the change of name was given in the penultimate issue of Quarterly Queries and made at an Extraordinary Meeting on 12 September 1924, being confirmed at another meeting on 26 September [954] A new seal was consequently required and cost the Society £3-17-6 [955].

The decision to publish The Genealogists’ Magazine was taken, as previously mentioned, following the demise of the old periodical The Genealogist in 1922. Its first issue appeared in April 1925 [956]. It was originally proposed to acquire the rights to The Genealogist and to continue that as the journal of the Society, but it was finally decided to make a fresh start [957], the President, Lord Farrer, writing in the first issue that 'a permanent record of pure Genealogy will aid the sister crafts of History and Heraldry'. The Revd Henry Denny (1878-1953) [958], a member of the Executive Committee from 1913 to 1933, had agreed to be the first editor.

Henry Denny had joined the Society in 1911 and given a lecture on Irish records in 1916. He came from a long line of Members of Parliament for county Kerry where an ancestor had been granted Tralee Castle and 6,000 acres by Queen Elizabeth I [959], but he also held several appointments in England. He remained editor whilst Rector of West Wickham, Kent (1925-30), succeeded his cousin as 7th Baronet in 1928 and edited the Magazine until the June issue in 1931, when he became much more active in Church affairs and moved to Surrey [960]. He wrote many articles as well as a History of the Denny family of Tralee (1911) and Some pedigrees of Denny (1927). With him on the Editorial Committee were the Welsh expert Leoline Jenkins Griffith and Cregoe Nicholson [961] who sometimes acted as Editorial Secretary [962] and did the general correspondence.

The Genealogists’ Magazine, which was free to members and 1s 6d an issue to non-members, was given a yellowy-orange cover so that it might stand out, Nicholson used to say, on a bookstall, though I fear that it rarely if ever appeared on one. The colour, however, was destined for use on most of the Society's publications for the next sixty years, becoming orange for the National Index of Parish Registers and, in its extreme form as a particularly bright yellow ('vile yellow', as I then described it), on the exhibition boards prepared for the first Family History Fair in 1993. Duncan Moul's early drawing of a tree for the Company Seal was elaborated for the new cover by Charles Winckworth Allen, of Rathmines, co. Dublin [963]. His design also had a long life, lasting until the re-vamp in 1961.

With the advent of the quarterly Magazine the names of the new members elected during the year, obituary notices, lists of the main accessions to the library and the quarterly queries that had formerly been issued as a separate pamphlet appeared in its pages and the need for a less detailed Annual Report became apparent, it being reduced from a nicely produced 12-pages with cover to a single folded sheet in 1929, a format that the Annual Reports retained until 1975.

The new Magazine gave a boost to the Society but there were serious initial problems, not always with the printers, causing havoc with the accounts. All the first year's issues were delayed, that for December 1925 carrying news of events that had taken place the previous February [964] and the Annual Report for 1926 had to admit, but without explanation, that only one of the four intended issues had appeared [965]. A copy of the December 1926 issue that I have has been annotated by one irate member, 'Delivered 21 Dec 1927'! Problems and delays continued to distort the accounts into 1928 [966]. By 1933, however, the Secretary was able to refer to the Magazine’s appearance ‘with its usual punctuality’. By then it had 75 non-member subscribers, a goodly sum was being received from advertisers and, an important by-product, the number of books being received and reviewed had greatly increased [967].

In 1925 the wireless had for the first time invaded the domain of genealogy and Edward Le Breton Martin (1873-1944), the author of books on scouting and a history of Westbury in Buckinghamshire gave a talk entitled 'Mystery, History and the Family' which The Listeners' Library published as Family Foundations: a concise guide to genealogical research for the beginner (1s 1d including postage). A review in the Magazine said that the author pointed out 'the charm and value of genealogy and heraldry' and indicated briefly how the study of these subjects might be begun and carried out [968].

Following the demise of The Genealogist some doubted that another periodical would succeed. The old record-printing quarterly Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica founded in 1866, and now with an annual subscription of 15s 6d, was still appearing and in spite of financial losses continued to do so until 1938, from 1915 under the proprietorship and editorship of Arthur William Hughes Clarke (1873-1953) an interested and wealthy printer who lived at Wimbledon [969], Sherwood wrote privately in 1940 that ‘Misc Gen’ had done magnificent work and that all lamented its demise, but that its reviews were written by the office boy! [970].

The September 1925 issue of The Genealogists’ Magazine contained an interesting quotation from a letter that the Editor had received from the great Horace Round, who had been approached as a possible contributor, saying that, 'It has been proved to be most difficult to keep a really good genealogical magazine going, and the fact is, that hardly any care for the study of any family history but their own' [971]. It was a view that many shared, the genealogical bore being regarded as the greatest bore of all, and it remained a widespread view until the pedigrees of persons marrying into the Royal Family, politicians, and in this century of other celebrities became fair game for journalists.

Of course there were exceptions and the suggestion, in a lecture to the Society on 16 December 1933 by Lieut.-Colonel C. P. Hawkes that the father of the late Lord Birkenhead (F. E. Smith) was of pure gipsy descent on both sides, received much publicity with articles in The Times [972],The Observer  [973] and Daily Telegraph [974], though Birkenhead’s sister, Lady Eleanor Smith, was not so certain. The attendance at these monthly lectures had more than doubled since the removal from Bloomsbury Square [975] and by 1935 was generally about fifty.

In 1938 Anthony Wagner stirred up something when he showed in the Magazine that the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, was nineteenth in descent from Edward I, sharing the first eleven generations with the American president John Quincy Adams [976]. The article was mentioned in several newspapers. George Sherwood told the Birmingham Post that thirty years earlier he had done work on the Chamberlain male line at Lacock for the Premier’s father, Joseph Chamberlain, and that he had a mass of material on the surname [977]. However, the editor of Truth wrote (and the Bristol Evening Post copied), ‘I can imagine nobody more indifferent to blue-blooded ancestors than Mr Chamberlain, unless it were the great Joe himself, who indeed used to wax furiously ironical on the subject of the flaneur descendants of kings. I am rather surprised that the Society of Genealogists and Mr Wagner (who is a man of learning) should stoop to this kind of tomfoolery, and that The Times should subsequently have given countenance to it’. The radical Truth concluded that proof that the reigning monarch was amongst half a million ancestors nineteen generations ago was of no more interest or importance than proof that one of the others was hanged for felony [978].

However, in the 1920s the editor Henry Denny quickly found that, if he excluded accounts of particular families and record material, there was a shortage of good articles. His own interests lay in the gentry and he published a regular record of the sale of portraits and did so for some years. However, an early issue, for June 1925, was notable for the publication of the first part of an article by Revd Henry Isham Longden on the 'History of the Washington Family', beautifully illustrated by Duncan Moul. Denny also published many reviews, including several of Irish interest, and in the first year, some 143 queries. He persuaded Horace Round, 'notwithstanding his very great infirmity and suffering' [979], to contribute an article to the June 1926 issue about his edition of the Colchester Free School register in the course of which he made the remark quoted above that 'Love of genealogical study is an inborn quality'.

Denny worked with Leoline Griffith (to June 1932) and Cregoe Nicholson (to March 1930) but they were clearly not altogether happy in their task, being under pressure to speed up production and to overtake the arrears. The Magazine’s editorial in September 1926 gave a long account of what was involved in its production and shows that at that time the three of them were responsible for its every aspect. As well as keeping up-to-date details of the members' addresses and invoicing non-members, they compiled the lists of accessions and queries, organised the advertising and soliciting of books for review, hand addressed and packed the envelopes (with any inserts) and stamped and posted them. 'We venture, therefore', they wrote, 'to express the hope that our readers will try to refrain from any unnecessary criticism, giving us, rather, all the forbearance and practical help possible' [980].

The committee of three was strengthened in June 1927 by the addition of Thomas Arthur John Pile (1874-1947) [981], an active member since 1915, who was Assistant Editor for a year only to June 1928, and then in March 1928 by William Townsend Jackson Gun (1876-1946) [982], another county Kerry man, trained for the Bar, editor of the Harrow School Register (1934) [983], interested in eugenics, as discussed below, and the author of Studies in hereditary ability (1928). Another member of the editorial committee (from March 1928 to June 1936) was the Founder-Fellow and Lancashire antiquary, Colonel John Parker, C.B. (1857-1938) [984], a Vice-President of the Society of Antiquaries. The Revd Thomas Cyril Dale (1870-1937) a member since 1915 and former chairman of the Executive Committee joined them in March 1929. Henry Denny resigned as Editor in June 1931 but remained on the Editorial Committee until June 1933. Thomas Dale and William Gun were then Joint-Editors from September 1931 to February 1937, they being assisted by Colonel Parker (to June 1936), Dr Theodore Thomson (from September 1931 to June 1938), Ralph Jermy Beevor (1860-1937), a professional in the eastern counties [985] (from September 1931 to December 1933) and by Cregoe Nicholson who joined the Committee again in December 1933.

In 1932 the number of pages was increased from 44 to 48 and the Secretary, Kathleen Blomfield, was now obtaining the advertisements and increasing the income. She expressed the hope that 'if financial considerations permit, it may be possible to issue the Magazine in a larger and more attractive form' [986] but at the Annual Meeting in 1933 Thomas Dale said that this had not proved possible. The Magazine's appearance had been criticised and the Committee were anxious 'to present it in a more dignified form' but the Society could not afford to spend more on it even though it cost so little because of the income from advertisements. The cost of printing was then about ten shillings a page [987]. Dale repeated his comments in 1934 when the circulation was about 950 of which about a hundred were sold to non-members. The cost to the Society was only £54 a year. Not for the first or last time 'some objection was taken to the colour of the cover'! [988]. The Annual Report reveals that careful consideration had been given to producing the Magazine in a much larger format so that tabular pedigrees could be more adequately set out but that this idea had been shelved because of the costs involved. However, as the Annual Report also noted, the Magazine had attracted some 97 books for review, a valuable addition to the Library and a testimony to the standing which it had reached [989]. By 1935 it regularly contained 48 pages and in December, Kathleen Blomfield started a publicity campaign to try to get more public libraries to subscribe, claiming some encouraging results [990] and reporting at the end of 1936 that fifty libraries subscribed [991].

The senior Editor, Thomas Dale, was a man of considerable learning, universally popular and the soul of kindness. In 1931 the Society had given its name as publisher to his two volumes, Inhabitants of London 1638 which listed the 15,000 householders, though it had no monetary liability for the book, a useful arrangement from the publicity involved [992] though the stock was not exhausted until the 1960s. Dale's sudden death on 12 February 1937 'in the full flush of his activity' was a great loss to the Society [993] and the Annual Report recorded ‘deep sorrow at his untimely death’ [994].

William Gun then worked with his friend Byrom Stanley Bramwell, MA, LLB, TD (died 1948), who was Joint-Editor from March 1937 to December 1939, they together enlarging the Magazine to 56 pages in 1937 and (for two issues) to 68 pages in 1938. Bramwell was also interested in eugenics [995] and a noted speaker. He had been introduced to membership by Gun in 1932 and was Chairman of the Executive Committee, 1936-38 [996]. Other members of the Editorial Committee at this time were the medievalist Geoffrey H. White (from June 1937 to December 1938), Kendall Percy-Smith (from September 1938 to June 1940) and, for a very short time (March-June 1940), the playwright and author Herbert Wotton Westbrook (1881-1959) who had been on the editorial staff of the Globe newspaper.

The front-page editorial had been replaced by 'Notes and News' at the start of the new volume in March 1935. An index to the first sixteen numbers of the Magazine had been printed (250 copies) as an extra in October 1930, selling for 2s 6d [997]. Later indexes, compiled by Thomas Dale, continued to be published separately and to sell badly [998]. That for volume six (1932-4) also sold for 2s 6d and was thought indispensable for owners of complete sets [999]. Following the death of Dale in 1937 the index to volume seven (1935-7) was compiled professionally and did not appear until 1939 [1000]. It was then agreed to make volume eight a much smaller volume and to print its index (1938-9) as a major part of the December 1939 issue.

In 1937 the Society had produced for the first time a little folded card ‘Syllabus of Lectures’ for the coming winter season and this was produced annually until the War.

The Society and Eugenics

When English eugenicists came together again after the First World War, the pedigrees of 'social problem groups' constructed by Ernest Lidbetter which, unlike those collected by the similar eugenic movements in the United States and Germany paid no attention to the possible transmission of Mendelian traits, received searching criticism from the young statistician Roger Aylmer Fisher (1890-1962) who had now joined the Eugenics Education Society's Research Committee. As a result by 1923 funding for research that did not include statistical analysis dried up and Lidbetter's work which was beginning to be widely criticised [1001] came to an end with the publication of his Heredity and the social problem group (1933). The book contained 26 pedigrees, the first alone containing 387 individuals over seven generations of whom 204 had been in receipt of relief, but the promised analysis and further volumes never appeared. He had not modified his pre-War conclusions and now believed that, 'The best in civilization is the best biologically. What is therefore necessary today is attention to the problems of reproduction and its control'.

At the end of the year in which Lidbetter's funding dried up, William T. J. Gun, who had joined the SoG only a few months earlier, gave a talk to his fellow members on 'Hereditary ability as exemplified in certain genealogies', based on a study of the Dictionary of National Biography and designed to show the descent of positive traits. It was as weak in its scientific analysis as any Lidbetter pedigree. A report in The Morning Post the following day says that he concluded that while genius is rarely inherited, high ability persists for at least three or four generations and that it descends more through the father than the mother [1002]. An editorial in the same paper questioned the thesis, as did a sharp notice in the Westminster Gazette which thought that 'ability is handed on, but its expression may be inhibited by inheritance from the other side, and limited as well as directed by circumstances' adding that too little was known to say anything about 'genius' except that like 'sport' it appeared to arise from no adequate antecedents that could be readily identified [1003]. The amusing Oswald Barron as 'The Londoner' in the Evening News said that his mind was unsettled by all this talk of hereditary genius when the sons-in-law of bishops often held canonries and plump rectories. He reckoned that 'ability is wont to earn a better living than disability' and 'can give its children their regular meals, send them to a good school and push them handsomely out into life'. One did not need to ask questions of science, he wrote, to find out why ability should often be the child of ability [1004].

However William Gun, 'the last of the Guns of Rathoo' in county Kerry, who had taken History at Trinity College, Cambridge, and been called to the Bar, was elected to the Executive Committee of the SoG the following year (1924) and remained a member until 1946, being Chairman 1931-3 and editor of the Magazine 1937-42. He also served on the Council of the Eugenics Society from 1930 to 1946. Unabashed by the reception of his lecture, he enlarged on similar themes in his Studies in hereditary ability (1928), a book which was seen by some as a supplement to Francis Galton's Hereditary genius (1869) and a forerunner to the eugenicist Paul Bloomfield's Uncommon people: a study of England's elite (1955). In the book Gun discussed, without tabular pedigrees, descents in the female as well as the male line and the interlocked families involved, illustrating his account with many incidental anecdotes. He was, like Eric Lidbetter, highly selective and the book retains little reference value.

William Gun's interests are shown by his articles in the Magazine. He discussed direct female lines in history, the succession to baronies by writ and to the crown, the representatives of the Magna Carta barons, the oldest earldoms and their representatives and those Scotch peerages inheritable by females, and he provided a series of notes on successive generations in various fields. In a 1930 review of Charles Edward Banks’s The Winthrop Fleet of 1630 in which the majority of the emigrants listed came from the eastern counties, he had written, ‘The advocates of an almost purely Nordic origin for New England can in this connection point to the undoubted fact that the Eastern Counties are the most purely Nordic portion of Old England’ [1005]. His last paper for the Eugenics Review, in January 1938, was 'Haemophilia in the royal caste'. In the year in which he was Chairman, the SoG included in its Magazine a leaflet about the Eugenic Society's 'Pedigree Schedules' which consisted of an album of 'Individual Case Sheets', specimen charts and forms that aimed 'to provide educated persons with a means of conveying to their descendants a record of their ancestry', rather in the way that W. P. W. Phillimore had earlier recommended. The binder and forms were available for ten shillings but the idea did not catch on.

Meanwhile the Eugenics Education Society had, in 1926, changed its name to the Eugenics Society and between 1929 and 1934, when there was a fierce dispute between the environmentalists and the scientists (at the end of which Fisher resigned), it mounted a major campaign for voluntary sterilisation on eugenic grounds, eventually sponsoring a Bill introduced by the Labour MP for Wandsworth Central, Major Archibald Church, DSO, MC (1886-1954), 'to enable mental defectives to undergo sterilizing operations or sterilizing treatment upon their own application, or that of their spouses, parents or guardians'. The Bill was defeated by 167 votes to 89 at its Second Reading on 21 July 1931. The Eugenics Society's Education Secretary, Cora Hodson, had a year earlier been in touch about sterilisation with the subsequently notorious German psychiatrist and geneticist Ernst Rudin (1874-1952). It was, as Rudin later argued, little more than the science of the day, in which numerous geneticists around the world were involved [1006]. However, in England the accent now moved from sterilisation to birth control, the Eugenics Society ironically only surviving into the 1930s as the result of annual donations and a large bequest from Henry Twitchin (1869-1930), an Australian sheep farmer, who had believed in compulsory sterilisation of 'inferior types’ [1007]. That Society's membership, which was under 400 until 1925, was still less than 750 in 1939. Pauline Mazumdar, looking ahead, has suggested that 'the insistence on mathematisation and statistics led the movement as a whole in the direction of demography and population studies' [1008].

In 1932 William Gun had introduced to membership of the SoG another prominent member of the Eugenics Society, Byrom Stanley Bramwell (died 1948 aged 72) [1009], and he was a member of the SoG’s Executive Committee 1933-48 (Chairman 1936-8) and joint editor with Gun 1937-9. Byrom Bramwell, a son of Sir Byrom Bramwell (1847-1931), a prominent physician in Edinburgh, took law at Edinburgh University. He had joined the Eugenics Society in which several members of his family were involved in 1921 and was Treasurer 1929-33 and then a member of Council and Chairman until 1943. John Maynard Keynes was his contemporary on the Council, 1937-44. It was Bramwell when Treasurer who wrote, 'The subject of eugenics seems fertile in raising rows' [1010]. His few articles in The Genealogists’ Magazine included notes on the frequency of cousin marriages, span of life, genealogy and the Order of Merit, and surnames in Scotland, but he was interested in family investment trusts and had a career in London with Barclay and Fry Ltd, lithograph and letterpress printers.

The Society's former honorary librarian and co-editor of the Magazine 1931-8, Theodore Thomson, also had a lifelong interest in eugenics and joined the Eugenics Society in 1935, becoming a Fellow the following year. In 1935 the Eugenics Society had assisted with the compilation of the second edition of his Catalogue of British family histories and two years’ later in 1937, benefiting from these links with the SoG and as described below, the Eugenics Society exhibited its well-known pedigrees at the SoG’s Exhibition of Genealogical and Heraldic Records.

John Beach Whitmore and Printed Pedigrees

The possible existence of a published pedigree of any family was becoming more difficult to find as the years receded from the last edition of George Marshall's The Genealogist's Guide in 1903. After Marshall's death in 1905, Eric Geijer at the College of Arms had begun to collect material for a continuation of the Guide and this he passed to the London solicitor John Beach Whitmore (1882-1957) [1011] who, in the mid-1920s began to devote the greater part of his leisure to the task [1012], conducting a large correspondence and spending much time at the British Library, searching systematically through books and periodicals for printed accounts of families that contained information on any family for at least three generations in the male line. In view of the number of prospectuses and advertisements for projected family histories that were never published, Whitmore insisted on seeing all those he included in his forthcoming Guide and he bought dozens from booksellers, donating a stream of books to the British Library and to the Society.

Whitmore, the only son of a wealthy General Practitioner in Kensington, was a Major in the Queen’s Westminster Rifles who had served in France and Belgium throughout the First World War and was admitted a solicitor in 1920. By all accounts, however, he did little legal work, at least latterly, as his involvement in a wide spectrum of historical research grew apace. He had contributed his first note, on ‘chained books’, to Notes and Queries in 1912, and from 1920 onwards was a frequent contributor, mainly of biographical points and corrections, to its pages. By the time of his death in 1957 he had written upwards of 250 articles there and in The Elizabethan. In 1940, along with Hughes Clarke, he edited for the Harleian Society the London Visitation Pedigrees of 1664. He was a voracious reader and frequent corrector of other people’s books on a wide variety of subjects, even checking and correcting the fractional problems in R. W. Sloley’s chapter on science in Glanville’s The Legacy of Egypt (1942).

Apart from his work on the Guide and on the former pupils at Westminster School, Whitmore in 1922 began a correspondence with John Venn (1834-1923) and his son John Archibald Venn (1883-1958) the compilers of the truly remarkable Alumni Cantabrigienses, second only to the DNB as a biographical reference work, on which they had started work in 1907 and which attempted to identify the 140,000 students, graduates and office holders at Cambridge University from earliest times to 1900, the first two volumes of which (of four covering the period before 1751) were published that year.

These early volumes of the Alumni owed much to the skill of Florence W. S. Bloxham (1873-1939), the Venns’ principal assistant since 1915, who died suddenly in 1939 and who the younger Venn described as ‘one of the outstanding genealogists of her time’. Once their publication started in 1922, many well-known genealogists and editors of school registers contributed material to an Addenda placed at the end of the fourth volume and then to the more detailed six volumes covering the years 1752-1900 which appeared between 1940 and 1954. Much was contributed by the writer on cricket, Robert Langford Arrowsmith (1906-1988), who taught classics at Charterhouse and compiled the Charterhouse Register 1769-1872. In 1952 the younger Venn asked Whitmore, who was sending a stream of additions, if he would be willing to look through the proofs of the final two volumes prior to publication so that his additions could be incorporated at proof stage and Venn was later to write that their value and accuracy owed a very great deal to his vigilance and labour [1013]. These volumes appeared in 1953-4, but to the day he died Whitmore continue to send Venn further additions and corrections to add to the interleaved Alumni kept in the University Archives.

Whitmore was not just a proof reader. He was out and about checking additional sources all the time and he also gave casual employment to a surprising number of part-time professionals in the checking of parish registers and wills for his work on both the Guide and on the Record of Old Westminsters.

The results of Whitmore's labour on the Guide did not begin to see the light of day until 1949 but in 1928 the active Dr Theodore Radford Thomson (1897-1981) [1014], who was later Honorary Librarian of the Society, produced the first edition of A Catalogue of British Family Histories containing references to all those that he could trace. There were about 2,250 of them and the book sold for 7s 6d. With the assistance of the closely linked Eugenics Society, he produced a second edition in 1935 (all the profits going to the SoG) and forty years later, at my urging, a third in 1976 [1015]. With the support of the American Library Association this became something of a best seller and it was reprinted with an addendum by Geoffrey Barrow in 1980, when Thomson was 83. Thomson had insisted that his book contain only 'British' family histories and no amount of argument would persuade him to include any family of recent foreign origin, even the American ones being excluded, though a few appear in Barrow's addendum [1016].

Parish Registers and Boyd’s Marriage Index

The collection of parish register copies was always a priority for the Society and in August 1924 Percival Boyd very generously paid for the publication of the first list of the 2,500 in the Library entitled Catalogue of Parish Register Copies in the Society's Possession, an interleaved copy of which was sent to each member [1017], but the hoped-for printing of catalogues of other sections of the Library [1018] did not then materialise. The idea for the list may have come from the publication by Phillimore & Co the previous year (1923) of a list of the 1,400 parishes covered by their Marriage Register Series.

In September 1925 Percival Boyd made the first announcement of a project on which he was already working 'under the auspices of the Society' to compile the vast Marriage Index which today bears his name [1019]. He believed that one of the greatest difficulties in genealogical research was to find the record of lost marriages. His intention was to index all the available marriage registers by county in periods of twenty-five years and he commenced by making a slip index to the printed registers. To this he intended to add slips for the marriages in manuscript copies of registers and then to attempt to secure copies of the entries in registers that had not previously been copied. Finally he hoped to add entries from the Bishops Transcripts where the registers were lost or incomplete.

At the time of the announcement Boyd had already written slips for a hundred thousand marriages in four different counties and by early 1926 he had completed 213,000 slips. He was a business man engaged in the textile trade and he used to say that he had dreadful insomnia and that he needed some spare time occupation that would tire him out and so he started this index. The Society was then charging 2s 6d for any marriage found [1020] though at one stage whilst the Society was still at Bloomsbury Square he was putting out a little leaflet saying that a search could be made for a specific marriage for six pence and I received such a form in 1992 (when the postage alone was 24 pence), forwarded from the old address, with six penny stamps attached!

In 1926 Boyd used the Annual Report to thank the members who had helped with manuscript registers, and especially Phillimore and the Devon and Cornwall Record Society for allowing their transcripts to be included in the index [1021]. The first index volumes to appear on the shelves at the Society were those for Cornwall, 1538-1600, but by the end of 1927 some forty-four 25-year parts had been completed [1022].

In 1929, the index having reached nearly a million names, Percival Boyd had printed a list of all the parishes then covered, A marriage index on a new plan, and sent copies to every member of the Society. He made quite extraordinary progress. In the one year 1929 he added 46 volumes to the Index [1023], in 1930 the number was 27 [1024] and in 1931 it was 38, the Index then totalling 208 volumes and including about two and a half million names [1025]. In 1932 he added another 39 volumes [1026]. By 1934 the index had reached 283 volumes and had three million entries [1027].

Of course Boyd did not work alone and he wrote in 1932 that amongst all those who had helped in his scheme, the name of Norman Hindsley (1886-1966) was pre-eminent. Hindsley had become a member in 1924 and in five years indexed 200,000 marriages from the registers of 140 Yorkshire parishes. Boyd himself added 50,000 from another 60 registers and Hindsley sorted them together and had them typed to form the Yorkshire sections of Boyd's Marriage Index as they exist today. Hindsley allowed his membership to lapse when he went to Canada as a chartered accountant in the 1930s but I remember corresponding with him when he re-joined in 1961 and he died at Granby, Quebec, in 1966, aged 80 [1028].

Between September 1932 and July 1934 Boyd gave the forty volumes that he and his staff had completed for Suffolk to Ipswich Public Library and it was then reported that they contained every marriage in the county prior to 1753 (and many to 1837), including many from the licences as well as 20,000 marriages, 1563-1661, copied by Vincent Burrough Redstone (1853-1941; father of the Lilian Redstone mentioned above) from the Bishops’ Transcripts at Bury St Edmunds. Altogether there were 220,000 entries [1029].

Another man who made a great contribution was the Revd Evelyn Young (1866-1936), latterly Vicar of Colston Bassett, Nottinghamshire, who in November 1935 gave transcripts of some 130,000 marriages in Cambridgeshire, having covered the whole of the county except for a few parishes in the south east, supplementing the entries from the Bishops Transcripts at Ely. His copies were bound at the cost of the Society the following year when transcribers were being found to complete the remaining parishes. He died on 15 April 1936 [1030]. Similarly Herbert Maxwell Wood (died 1929), of Sunderland, chartered accountant, had done nearly all the work on the counties of Durham and Northumberland, he being the Secretary of the Parish Register Society for those counties.

By 1935 Boyd had completed 300 volumes with 3,561,400 names [1031] and by 1938 there were over four million entries from about 1,500 parishes and he was working on the miscellaneous volumes [1032]. Publicity about Boyd's obsessional work, which aimed to index a thousand names a day, greatly aided the Society and was frequently mentioned in the press [1033]. In January 1939 the Dundee Evening Telegraph said that at the present rate the index would be completed in 2024! [1034]. At 31 December 1939 it contained 5,611,000 entries [1035].

However, in March 1944 Boyd explained that additions to the typed volumes had been stopped by the War which 'had robbed him of his typists' [1036]. In March 1948 about 250,000 un-typed slips remained with Boyd at his home at Warlingham, Surrey [1037], and he was then working on slipping the 78 volumes of Phillimore's Marriage Series which had not been covered by the main Index, so that they could be included in a Miscellaneous Series [1038]. By the time of his death on 17 April 1955, aged 86 [1039], Percival Boyd had indexed the marriages in most transcribed registers and his Marriage Index contained over six million entries. The slips for the unfinished parts of the First Miscellaneous Series and additional slips for a Second Miscellaneous Series which he had also started to compile were bequeathed to the Genealogical Society of Utah, sorted into one series and subsequently typed in Salt Lake City as is mentioned below.

In March 1935 it was reported that Boyd, in cooperation with the College of Arms, was working on an Index of London Burials, 1538-1852, from easily accessible transcripts of burial registers and had so far typed to letter 'R' in twelve volumes, each of about 280 pages and containing 185,000 names. He had indexed the adult males only, mainly as an aid to finding their wills [1040].  By the time the Annual Report for 1934 was circulated, the finished work in 16 volumes, containing about a quarter of a million entries, had already been placed on temporary loan with the Society [1041] and they were purchased for a nominal sum in 1935 [1042].

The same Magazine (March 1935) reported under the heading 'A New Epoch in Genealogy', that the Executive Committee had agreed on 16 January to begin a collection of 'Family Units' on which, it was hoped, members would record details of complete family groups in a standard manner. Forms had been printed and were available and it was hoped to place the first completed volume on the shelves shortly [1043]. Fifty forms could be had for two shillings. The following June it was noted that six volumes had been compiled and that 'No way that has been invented up to the present can compare with this in making genealogical work accessible for other searchers' [1044]. In September it became clear that the man behind the idea was Percival Boyd and by then there were nine volumes of 'Boyd's Units' on the shelves [1045] and sixteen by the end of the year [1046]. However, the scheme did not catch on and was discontinued after forms for 34 volumes had been written, a collective index being compiled to the first 22 volumes. Some bound volumes of uncompleted forms were then sold off to interested individuals. Similar forms, known as 'Family Group Sheets', became very widespread in the United States, particularly after 1942 when a revised form became the basis of the Church Records Archives of the Genealogical Society of Utah [1047].

Congress of Archaeological Societies

Since 1919 the Society had continued to send representatives to the annual Congress of Archaeological Societies at which the main record societies were also represented but there was a growing feeling that the proceedings of the Congress were overshadowed by the archaeologists and in June 1927 the Magazine’s editorial committee, led by Henry Denny, proposed to the Executive Committee that the time had come for the SoG to take a lead in arranging a special congress of record societies. He thought that co-ordination of methods, the avoidance of overlapping, some measure of uniformity in size and style, and the perennial problems of publicity and finance, would be subjects of mutual interest, strength coming from union [1048]. The suggestion was not acted upon and was overtaken by events with the formation of the British Records Association in 1932, though the Society’s membership of the annual congress of archaeological societies continued to be mentioned in its Annual Reports until 1928.

District Probate Registries

Conditions in the District Probate Registries with both their ancient and modern records, like those at Somerset House, were generally far from ideal. Their numbers had been reduced by amalgamation to twenty-five, but there often was 'neither accommodation for searchers nor any inducement to officials to give facilities for research'. The official view was that access might be allowed provided only that it was no 'impediment to the business of the registry'.

Following the Report of the District Probate Registries Committee in 1923, alterations were made to the jurisdiction of the local Registries in 1926 and their number was further reduced to twelve in 1928 (that at Hereford, where the wills had been tampered with during the Shipway frauds, was one of those closed). Lord Farrer persuaded the Society to write to the Lord Chancellor saying that although 'Wills are still by far the most important documents for establishing family records' yet they were dispersed in various counties and 'often difficult of access and kept at out-of-the-way places'. On behalf of the Society, he recommended that the ancient wills as well as the modern ones should be 'aggregated' at the proposed District Registries and indexed at the expense of the State. As so much had 'already been effected by voluntary effort', he concluded that 'this need not be a costly proceeding' and as 'Each of the 12 would of course have an Index of the others so that to discover the actual place of deposit of any particular Will would be easy as compared with the difficulties of to-day' [1049].

There spoke a very simple soul! The outcome was hardly as one would have wished. The Hereford wills went to Llandaff. Those from Lichfield, Northampton, Bedford and Worcester all went to Birmingham. The Canterbury wills, unwanted at the Principal Registry or the Public Record Office, were put in a redundant prison at Canterbury and were not available to the public. As Bethell Bouwens wrote about the latter ten years later, 'It is a pity the records & the official obstructionists cannot change places - the former being conveniently housed in London & the latter relegated to the empty prison' [1050]. He summarised the feelings of many genealogists when he wrote that the pre-1858 records 'ought at once to be centralised in not more than four depositories, - two, one in each province - would be even better, on grounds both of preservation & ease of access. District Registries are strictly business Departments, concerned with earning fees & do not want or welcome literary search as a rule; nor, generally, are the Registrars fitted by temperament or tradition to the custody of irreplaceable records' [1051].

Parish Registers and Records Preservation

The recommendations of the Local Records Committee in 1902 as to the deposit of registers and records were given further strength when in 1920 the Royal Commission on Public Records said that English parish registers should be deposited in a local centre or centres by some public authority, a recommendation unanimously welcomed by the Society at a meeting in October that year [1052] but stories about the neglect and destruction of registers continued. In 1925 a fire in Sutton church that had damaged the ‘archives and registers’ prompted Maurice Orlando Bridgeman, the Rector of Wakes Colne in Essex, to write to The Church Times about the paramount importance of having copies made (using Phillimore’s pamphlet Parish Registers, with suggestions for their transcription) and recommending that a copy be entrusted to the Society [1053]. He had copied his from 1549 to 1837, working two hours a day, in about a fortnight.

In 1927 a Committee of the Church Assembly concluded that the parishes would still generally desire to be the custodians of their own registers, but in order to prevent loss, neglect, or misuse, it suggested that there should be frequent and periodic occasions when they should be produced and compared with the list in the terrier or inventory, especially when a new incumbent was inducted and on the visitations of archdeacons or rural deans. The lists were to be signed in the presence of the churchwardens and other members of the parochial church council. Receipts were always to be given and remain with the parochial church council for any registers held away from the church or parsonage. If the inspection revealed a case of loss, neglect or ill usage, power was to be given to the bishop to order the removal of the registers to the diocesan registry or other central repository or to order the repair of a register at the cost of the parish. If the incumbent or parochial church council resolved that the registers had best be resigned into the keeping of the diocesan registry (or other local record office),the Bishop was to be empowered to give an order for their transfer. The search fees would still be paid to the incumbent, but the latter might be empowered to waive his fees ‘on being approached by historical students’. The county of Surrey became the first that year to publish a detailed list of its surviving registers [1054].

Details of the Church Assembly’s recommendations were printed in the Society’s Magazine without comment [1055] but the Parochial Registers and Records Measure in 1929 unfortunately put few of them into law, though importantly it did empower the bishops to establish one or more diocesan record offices at their diocesan registries or elsewhere into which registers might be deposited. A power to compel deposit in cases of neglect was also given though never, it seems, used.

However, also in 1929, largely through the initiative and influence of Ethel Stokes, the British Record Society, which until then had been concerned solely with the publication of indexes to records but had become very concerned at the widespread destruction of documents resulting from the break-up of landed estates and changes in the law of property which threatened the survival of title deeds and manorial records (in particular as a result of the Law of Property Act 1924 which came into force on 1 January 1926 and made the sale and transfer of land easier and cheaper and abolished copyhold tenure) [1056], decided to divide itself into two sections, one to continue the publication of indexes and the other, the Records Preservation Committee, to endeavour to save manuscripts from destruction and to place them in appropriate custody. With the approval of the Master of the Rolls and a grant from the Carnegie Trustees a large room was hired at 2 Stone Buildings, Lincolns Inn, and with Miss Atwood in charge, documents from all kinds of sources, chiefly the unwanted papers of solicitors, were collected, stamped, scheduled and distributed to the various approved depositories, by volunteer workers [1057]. By December 1935 the British Records Association, as the new organisation had become, had 340 individual members (at five shillings a year) and 160 institutional members [1058].

An editorial in the Society’s June 1930 Magazine noted with satisfaction the opening of new muniment rooms by the town Council at Guildford (with Surrey Record Society taking an active part in its management) and at Leicester, where Lord Hanworth (1861-1936; formerly Sir Ernest Pollock, created Lord Hanworth in 1926), the Master of the Rolls, said that it was ’reassuring to know that there is a place of deposit authorised and used in every county – thus proving that what was initiated by the manorial records has extended to the wider field of all records of interest in the county’ [1059]. Hanworth took a strong personal interest in his work, involving much contact with stewards of manors, solicitors and others, which, as the official history of the PRO says [1060], gave a real impetus to the study of local history and local records, the manorial material now becoming accessible to students in these approved places of deposit. The SoG’s Magazine encouraged its readers to add to the collections of documents in each county and in December it published a complete list of the places approved by the Master of the Rolls for the deposit of manorial records. In London these were the British Museum, the Society of Antiquaries, the Society of Genealogists and Hendon Central Library [1061]. Another article that year described the efforts of the Institute of Historical Research (attached to the University of London and founded in 1921) and the Congress of Archaeological Societies to build up a centralised record of the movement and acquisition of major groups of records and of the facilities for their consultation [1062].

In April 1931 Lord Hanworth opened a fine new county muniment room in the Shire Hall at Taunton that had been equipped by the Records Committee of Somerset County Council. Particularly concerned with the facilities for the preservation of manorial records since the 1924 Act, Lord Hanworth said that the rooms were the best that he had seen anywhere in the country. The chairman of the records committee who was also the president of the Somerset Archaeological Society, Sir Matthew Nathan, appealed for the deposit of other local records in private hands, but those of the church were not mentioned [1063]. Indeed, amongst the array of local notabilities present there was no representative of the Church of England. However, the Local Government Act, 1933, required County Councils from time to time to inquire into the manner in which the documents under the control of Parish Councils and Parish Meetings were kept, and Somerset became the first county to complete such a survey. The fine published work, completed with the co-operation of the church authorities, took Dr J. E. King three years to compile [1064].

In November 1933 a ‘Leader’ in The Times, taking its cue from criticisms by Professor Powicke at the first Annual Meeting of the British Records Association which had just taken place, criticised the variant fees in diocesan registries and cathedral muniment rooms and mentioned the proposals of the 1929 Measure to establish diocesan record offices [1065]. The Times thought that difficulties of finance had prevented the scheme from coming into action and recommended the example of Worcester where a disused church which might otherwise have been pulled down had been turned into a diocesan registry, though, as had been pointed out, the diocesan registrars had neither time nor training to act as archivists. However, as a result of the Measure some county record offices and large libraries such as the Bodleian Library at Oxford and Gloucester City Library were recognised as diocesan repositories. The loss and destruction of registers did not now cease but it was certainly slowing down.

One of the weaknesses of the Society’s ‘vast eternal plan’ of putting everything into one great slip index had encouraged some members to transcribe registers directly onto slips so that no independent transcript was created and one had to rely on the completeness of the index, a dangerous thing when slips were so easily misplaced and/or taken by searchers. In May 1927 James Howard gave a valuable slip index of the pre-1835 contents of the parish chest of Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, which was fortunately kept separately, but its contents, like those of the Great Card Index, were very vulnerable.

By the time of the second edition of Herbert Fowler's book on the care of county muniments in 1928 he was acknowledging the assistance at Bedford of an enthusiastic Clerk of the Records, the young Frederick ('Derick') George Emmison (1907-1995), who had commenced an apprenticeship to Fowler, the honorary director of the office, five years earlier. Derick Emmison joined the SoG in 1930 [1066] and described his work and accomplishments in The Genealogists’ Magazine in 1935 [1067].

Fowler and he were following the recommendations of the Local Record Committee of 1902. Between 1928 and 1934 Emmison visited every parish in the county to catalogue the records in the churches. Concurrently with the cataloguing, a few parishes began to deposit their records in the County Record Office. Following the Parochial Registers Measure and the Local Government Act, both in 1929, he had collected the insecure early registers of ten parishes and every known document relating to the relief of the poor in the county.

Emmison was wary of having the registers under the same roof as the bishop's transcripts but in 1930 he inaugurated a series of Bedfordshire Parish Registers in which the registers and transcripts were collated for printing and by 1935 ten volumes had been published containing the registers of 30 parishes prior to 1812. They were no money-spinners and caused much financial worry, not only to him, but also to the Society of Genealogists, for in 1937 the Society was embarrassed to find that it had spent £6 or a tenth of its total library budget on the series. Mrs Blomfield wrote that it was 'too high a percentage to devote to one county' and she unhelpfully suggested that he publish only one volume a year! The wonderful general indexes of names, particularly in deeds and miscellaneous documents, that were such a hallmark of Emmison's work were quickly started at Bedford and he early paid tribute to the work of Harry Causton (died 1947, aged 82), of Bedford, who had written 25,000 index slips [1068].

Fowler took the view that the 'Concentration of all County Records in the care of a single custodian is undoubtedly to be recommended' but as we have seen the development of local record offices was not in any way anticipated by Lord Farrer at the Society of Genealogists and his 1935 article 'English Genealogy', with its accent on local record societies and public libraries [1069], forms a distinct contrast with that by the more percipient Derick Emmison which appeared in the same issue of the Society's Magazine. Emmison moved to Chelmsford as the first county archivist for Essex in 1938. By then a similar office had already been established for Kent where a specially constructed Records Block had that year been built behind County Hall, Maidstone. The foundation of similar offices in most other counties, however, which had such an effect on the deposit and preservation of local records and the ease with which they might be consulted, did not occur until after the Second World War.

In December 1933, following the damage by fire of the registers at Mariansleigh in Devonshire and the apparent loss of a register at Coleridge in that county, Lord Devon, the president of the Devon and Cornwall Record Society, wrote to the Bishop of Exeter a letter which was printed in the Exeter Diocesan Gazette and in The Times [1070]. He expressed deep concern and anxiety at the inadequacies of the old iron safes and said that he did know if there was power to enforce it, but that parish registers should either be kept in ‘a real fire-proof safe in the parish to which they belong or some place should be appointed where they can be kept, together with the registers of other parishes, in a fire-proof room or building’.

Local Groups

Bernau's ideas about local societies had been much ahead of their time, the First World War intervened, and his suggestions were not acted upon for another fifty years, though a leaflet about the Society sent to the overseas press in 1921 which suggested that 'residents in India can by joining the Society have reports on family matters posted to them' was noted by The Englishman in Calcutta with the comment, 'What about starting a Society of Genealogists of Calcutta?' [1071]. A few genealogists like Emmison did foresee the possibilities. In 1926 a member, Hugh Beaver (1890-1967) [1072], then of Walton on Thames, Surrey, suggested in a letter to the editor of the Magazine that very small local groups might be a way of organising co-operative searches in local records [1073], but there was no response. A similar suggestion, put forward by a Fellow, William Fowler Carter (1856-1942), of Bromsgrove, Worcestershire in 1935, was that local groups of members should be formed at various centres to hold meetings and discuss (and record) local genealogies, the papers read at London meetings being passed on [1074], but that idea also sank without trace.

There was, indeed, strong opposition to the very suggestion. The influential but now very elderly, Lord Farrer believed that the Society should confine its efforts to England and Wales and 'become the recognized Clearing House for genealogical research within those borders'. In his 1935 article mentioned above he wrote that the Society should have the fullest and friendliest relations with any societies in Scotland and Ireland, but said that the county record societies and local libraries did 'much the same work as ourselves' and provided the 'loose decentralization' that he thought was needed. Quite how the public libraries would cope with 'any Tom, Dick or Harry, seeking his great-grandfather', as Farrer put it, except by charging for student's tickets, as he suggested, was not at all clear [1075].

Vicar General Marriage Licences

With a grant of £10 from the Executive Committee in 1929 a special fund was opened (to which members were asked to contribute 'from one shilling upwards') with which to make abstracts of the allegations for marriage licences dealt with by the Vicar General in continuation of those printed by the Harleian Society which had ended in June 1694 [1076]. By 1931 the first index volume 1694-99 had been typed, but Miss Barclay who did much of the transcription of these licences and those of the Bishop of London died that year [1077]. In 1933 an appeal was made for funds to type the full details of the licences for the years covered [1078]. Two years later it was said that the indexing had proceeded to 1707 [1079] but it was not until 1940 that the slips for 1705-1709 were completed, the indexes being typed in 1946. In 1940 a possible new period commencing in 1801 was contemplated [1080] but slips of the allegations were only written for three years.

Agnes Webb, Secretary, 1928

Miss Hutchinson regrettably was obliged to resign through ill health in May 1928 [1081] when her assistant since 1921, Agnes Webb, was appointed Acting Secretary. Mrs Agnes Phoebe Webb (nee Goadby), who had been born at Maidstone in 1867 was the widow of Sidney Robert Webb, a medical missionary in the Congo who had died from fever there at the age of 28 in 1895. They had married immediately on his graduation from Edinburgh in 1892 and went to Africa the following year, he having from childhood 'a most absolute singleness of purpose' to be a missionary [1082].

She organised a Conversazione after the AGM in June 1928 to which members brought objects of antiquarian interest [1083] and was confirmed as Secretary later that year (£320-7-9 being paid in salaries in 1928), but served only until the end of 1930 when she resigned owing to ill health [1084]. She became a Member in 1932 and undertook some voluntary indexing for the library [1085]. Her whole-hearted devotion to the best interests of the Society and her careful efficiency were recalled at the time of her death at Tonbridge early in 1955, aged 87 [1086].

In the short period that she was Secretary the Society obtained some further publicity through a series of interesting articles, ‘London and other Items’, about its meetings and lectures, apparently written by P. G. Robertson a friend of the Revd Henry Denny [1087], which appeared in the Hamilton Advertiser, a Lanarkshire paper, and through others, perhaps from the same source, in the Northern Whig and Belfast Post. When in May 1928 the American genealogist George Andrews Moriarty spoke at the Society about Thomas Hutchinson, the last of the English governors of Massachusetts, this correspondent recorded that there were about sixty people present, and following the Annual Meeting that year he wrote that Lord Farrer had spoken about the duties of Miss Hutchinson’s successor as Secretary and said that as a rule secretaries largely made their own duties and in a very real sense were practically the organisations which they served.

George Sherwood, the Treasurer, who (only two years earlier had told the Daily Graphic that the Society was growing so fast that it wanted to move from Bloomsbury Square) [1088] had revealingly remarked with regard to the financial statements ‘that the policy pursued was not that of forming “a nest egg”, for they practised the method of spending wisely, and leaving only a small balance’, and Dr George C. Peachey (died 1935) of Ridge in Hertfordshire, a medical historian and ‘champion of the voluntary hospitals’, had suggested that the Society’s new committee should be entirely comprised of those who could and would take regularly active interest in the work [1089].

The correspondent to the Hamilton Advertiser, who often wrote of the ‘genial genealogists’, did not mention a lecture on ‘Pedigree Tracing’ that was due to be given in February 1929 by Harold Waring Atkinson (1868-1946) [1090], but described instead three shorter talks given, for the first time, on a Saturday afternoon (by Percival Boyd, Mrs Hart and Haskett-Smith). I am not sure if Atkinson’s lecture took place but in March, George Sherwood made a plea in the Magazine for genealogists always to express their dates with the months written in full [1091], only to be answered by Harold Atkinson in the next issue foolishly dating his letter ‘16/4/1929’ [1092], contrary to all that the Society had taught! Sherwood had written in one of its first printed notes in 1911, ‘Dates, in all cases, should be fully expressed, e.g., “1585, July 9th,” to facilitate reference; “1585.7.9” would, in this case, be misleading and inaccurate’ [1093].

Kathleen Blomfield, Secretary, 1930

Mrs Webb resigned as Secretary in December 1930 and her assistant Miss Whitby, who had served the Society well for several months, resigned on account of her health at the same time [1094]. There was thus almost a complete break in the staffing when Mrs Dorothy 'Kathleen' Bell (1895-1989), then in her mid-thirties [1095], and Mrs Webb's assistant from only that November, was appointed in her stead with Miss Claudia Maidie Ord-Young (1888-1975) as her assistant [1096]. Mrs Bell was the daughter of Edward Abrahamson, an East India merchant who had come originally from Holland [1097], and after her divorce from her first husband Eric Preston Bell (1894-1979) in 1925 [1098] she had worked at the College of Arms as Secretary to Sir John Heaton-Armstrong (1888-1967) then Chester Herald and well-known for his meticulous genealogical work. In April 1933 she married the much older Dr Joseph Blomfield, OBE (1870-1948), a distinguished anaesthetist [1099], and although she later claimed that she had intended to stay only 'for a few months' [1100], she continued as the Society's Secretary until 1950, her long tenure giving it great stability. It was a period in which much was accomplished though the membership remained stubbornly small and she never saw numbers above a thousand.

Kathleen Blomfield was a small wiry woman of great energy and determination, highly efficient in the office and much respected, but with a reputation for not tolerating fools gladly. She could, indeed, be quite unwelcoming and her absolute insistence on small fees as one entered the door (frequently commented upon in later years – I often heard it said that ‘nobody would speak to you unless you had paid half-a crown’) may account for the fact that the membership remained almost static. The wording of the Minutes of the Annual Meeting in 1935 that 'an increase of the subscription might be regarded as a retrograde measure and hinder the growth of the Society' is characteristic of her thinking [1101]. In June 1936 she inserted a typical note in the Magazine that the 'intention of resignation must be sent to the Secretary before the 31st December in each year, otherwise the Member renders himself liable for another year's subscription' [1102]. In a subscription reminder in March 1937 members were told 'constant applications make much extra work' [1103] and in September 1937 there was 'Will those members who have not yet paid for the above (the Catalogue of Parish Registers) kindly do so, as a second application makes much extra clerical work' [1104]. The pages of the Magazine throughout her later years with the Society are peppered with such admonitions.

Theodore Thomson, Honorary Librarian, 1931

Although the Revd Ernest Whitfield had been nominally Honorary Librarian from 1926 to 1930 he does not seem to have been very active, though the rearrangement of the rooms that year must have given him some work, and the Library Committee had for some time been searching for a suitable person to take on the post [1105]. As a result of an appeal in the Magazine in 1930 Dr Theodore Thomson, the compiler of the published catalogue of family histories, came forward and commenced as Honorary Librarian after the Annual Meeting in 1931. He set to, according to William Gun, 'with the utmost zeal and efficiency', making considerable improvements [1106].

There was much to do. Early in 1930 a member, Mrs Henrietta Georgiana Mainwaring, of 11 Wilton Crescent, Westminster, had left the Society some three hundred books [1107] and the following year Frank Charles Beazley (1857-1931) [1108], a Founder Fellow particularly interested in Cheshire, left £100 and a large collection of books and clearly written manuscripts that filled seven large cases. An amusing note in the Liverpool Post, ‘With the Pedigree Hunters’, speaks at this time of taking tea ‘with the genealogists at their society’s old house in Bloomsbury-square, where there is a new high-tide of one-way traffic. Nevertheless in their quiet, cultured manner they proceeded to hold an annual meeting. Theirs is a dignified enthusiasm. The only form of hunting which man does not share with the brute beasts is pedigree hunting, and monkeys at least cannot climb a family tree. The genealogists were rejoicing over a legacy from one of their number – boxes of books and a pile of MS’s – and their joy was the greater on account of the singularity of this man among genealogists. It appears that he wrote in a legible hand’ [1109].

The Library Committee had already been selling off duplicate books and those that were not 'mainly genealogical' and typed lists were available to the members, but it was at this time that it was decided to keep duplicate sets of the books which were not available for loan, such as the heralds' visitations and the publications of the Harleian and British Record Societies, so that members could borrow copies [1110]. Over four hundred books were sent on loan that year [1111], almost seven hundred, a record, in 1932 [1112] and again about four hundred in 1933 [1113].

Theodore Thomson, as is mentioned below, made considerable improvements in the classification of the library and was Honorary Librarian during the move to Chaucer House in 1933, being entirely responsible for the arrangement of the Library in the new setting. He gave up the post sometime between March and June 1934 but assisted greatly with the preparation of The Genealogists' Handbook in 1935 [1114]. Cregoe Nicholson was then appointed Honorary Librarian and did duty for four years until June 1938 after which, as described below, Colonel Percy-Smith took over until June 1940.

Companions of the Conqueror

In July 1931 there was considerable press interest in an elaborate bronze memorial that had been unveiled by Lady Eustace Percy (nee Drummond) in the Castle of Falaise in Normandy in honour of William the Conqueror and his companions. On it was inscribed the names of 315 knights who were said to have fought at the Battle of Hastings. A wealthy amateur historian from New York, Mordecai 'Jackson' Crispin (1875-1953) [1115], had earlier inspired the creation of a Comité Guillaume le Conquérant (which included Lord Eustace Percy the M.P. for Hastings) and, advised by Leonce Macary a schoolmaster at Falaise who was unfortunately quite unaware of English research on the subject, the committee had accepted the 315 names, largely taking their list from the Roman de Rou by Robert Wace, a poem written a hundred years after the event.

The touchy subject of the names of those present at the battle had, of course, been of considerable interest to British genealogists for many years, various versions of the so-called ‘Battle Abbey Roll’ having appeared in print since the sixteenth century. Between 1925 and 1930 Walter Rye had published an index to six versions of the Roll in The Genealogists’ Magazine [1116].

In December 1931, prompted by the celebrations at Falaise, Dr Theodore Thomson assisted by the leading expert on Anglo-Norman genealogy, Geoffrey White, wrote a trenchant article in The Genealogists’ Magazine in which they evaluated the sources used by Macary and concluded that the names of only fifteen ‘Companions’ were proved or extremely probable [1117]. An unsigned editorial in that issue of the Magazine, probably written by William Gun, said that the commemoration at Falaise had been made 'ridiculous' by the inclusion of the 315 names [1118].

That issue of the Magazine also announced that there would be a discussion meeting on the subject of 'The companions of William the Conqueror and their possible descendants', led by Geoffrey White and Dr Thomson, at the Society, on Saturday, 13 February 1932. It was a heated two-and-a-half-hour debate, chaired by William Gun (with the President, Lord Farrer, in attendance), which attracted considerable press publicity [1119] and was reported at length in the June Magazine [1120]. White dealt with the contemporary sources and Thomson with the descendants, saying that the public should be protected against charlatans and the ‘absurd people’ who tried to prove descents from the Conqueror’s companions. A paper by the relatively young Arthur Ronald Holman (1900-1978), who had joined the Society in 1929, was also read reinforcing some of the earlier points. Captain Bernard Stephen Townroe (1885-1962), General Secretary of the United Association of Great Britain and France which had arranged the expedition to Falaise, said that the expressions ‘charlatans’ and ‘absurd people’ were derogatory to French historians. Others criticised the tone of the Magazine article and its use of the word 'ridiculous'.  At the start of the meeting some light relief had been given to a ‘room full of furious Normans’ by an elderly Chinese gentleman (not a Member!) knocking loudly on the street door downstairs and demanding to be let in, something he repeated later in the proceedings [1121]. However, the meeting’s general conclusions remained the same; the names on the monument should have been submitted to the most severe scrutiny but the Society had not been approached or consulted. Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Stanley Clack (1888-1945), an early Fellow of the Society who years earlier had fallen out with Sherwood [1122], had been at Falaise and was very critical of the Society’s ‘flippant’ approach, writing to The Times to clarify a point and to say that the names had been collected by a ‘French committee of historians and scholars’ independent of the subscribers before ‘any decision to ask other than Frenchmen to “assist”’ [1123]. Macary, because of the unfriendly attitude of Dr Thomson's first Magazine article, had declined to discuss it and wrote to The Sunday Times that his committee was extremely surprised that the Society had allowed some of its representatives to refer repeatedly to the work of the committee in extremely unfriendly terms. Complete documentation of the 315 names would, he said, be placed in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris [1124].

The editorial to the June Magazine drew attention to the lists of descendants of the so-called companions that had been published in France and in the Journal of the United Associations of Great Britain and France [1125] and asked for proofs of the descents to be published, but that, of course, never happened, though the biographical details of the 315 so-called companions assembled by Crispin and Macary were published in 1938 as the Falaise Roll, they having ‘after their compilation’ been ‘reviewed by Richard Holworthy, archivist and genealogist, London’ [1126]. At the meeting Holworthy had said that help rather than ridicule should have been offered by the Society. His sympathies were, he said, with the proceedings of the Falaise Committee which had worthily commemorated a great historic event. However, the Falaise Roll was savaged in America by George Andrews Moriarty for its ‘indiscriminate mixture of sound facts with fiction and error’ [1127].

The conclusions of Geoffrey White and Theodore Thomson as to the names of the known companions were not seriously challenged until 1944 when Professor D. C. Douglas wrote a paper for History in which he suggested the addition of a few more names [1128]. Mr White's extensive commentary on Professor Douglas's paper, published by the Society immediately afterwards [1129], accepted a total of nineteen companions of whom fifteen certainly and four almost certainly fought at Hastings [1130].

Meanwhile, on 7 September 1933 the controversy had been further ignited when Lord Raglan, the son of the Society's former President and himself the President of the Anthropology Section of the British Association, pronounced at a meeting of the Association in Leicester, that no existing family could trace a descent from a Saxon ancestor and but few from a Norman 'who came over with the Conqueror'. He, of undoubted Norman descent, was speaking on the theme ‘What is tradition?’ and gave as an example of the work of the ‘pedigree fakers’ the ancestry of Sir Hereward Wake. The Daily Mail, under a banner headline ‘Lord Raglan on ‘faked pedigrees’ of famous families: bombshell at scientists’ conference’, quoted the Earl Marshal’s secretary as saying that Raglan was ‘much too sweeping’ and that there were a small number of British families that had authentic pedigrees back to Norman times. The Daily Mail recalled the celebrations two years previously when Lord Derby had chartered a special steamer for the ‘pilgrimage’ to Normandy and listed a dozen ‘accredited descendants’ who had participated [1131]. An unnamed spokesman for the Society of Genealogists, however, agreed ‘wholeheartedly’ with Lord Raglan’s statements. The Evening News, under ‘Family trees “all a fake”’, had noted that more than 2,000 people attended the Conference in eleven different halls, but Lord Raglan’s comments seem to have received the most publicity [1132]. Lord Raglan was unperturbed and in an interview to the Daily Express mentioned Lord Salisbury and the Duke of Bedford’s unsubstantiated Norman ancestries [1133]. Even Punch had a little poem, ‘The Fading-out of Lady Clara Vere de Vere’, which concluded:

‘But now that age-old pedigrees, Are proved each one of them a dud,

The kindest heart, the simplest faith, Will disbelieve your Norman blood’ [1134].

Of course there was a back-lash. The Sunday Express, under ‘Famous Family Answers Scientist’s Charge of Bogus Ancestry’, quoted Admiral Sir Drury St Aubyn Wake as saying that Raglan was talking utter nonsense and the Earl Marshal’s Secretary (A. G. Blomefield Russell, Lancaster Herald) said the Wake pedigree was ‘beyond doubt’. The Morning Post immediately received letters from aggrieved people declaring that they were exceptions to Raglan’s sweeping assertions but Thomas Dale wrote in to say that not more than half a dozen families could prove an unbroken male descent from a Domesday tenant and that none had such a descent from an ancestor living in the time of Edward the Confessor [1135]. He and his co-editor, William Gun, wrote in The Genealogists’ Magazine that the Society stood for scientific genealogy and that 'the assertion of a pedigree without documentary proof is valueless' [1136].

Improved Family Histories

In January 1932 in a lecture to the Society on 'Manorial Records', Herbert Wheatley Knocker, FSA (1874-1945), said, 'We may all agree - first, that the genealogy of the individual is good; secondly, that the study of his family's story is better, and thirdly, that the study of the individual's social group or village community from century to century is a fitting addition to the other' [1137]. The article’s ‘delightful reading’ was mentioned as far away as the Northern Whig & Belfast Post [1138].

Knocker was Secretary of the Manorial Society and his thoughts were certainly catching on at this time. The professional record searcher William Miller Higgs (1878-1958) [1139] joined the Society in 1922 and was elected a Fellow in 1923. He had written The Spurgeon family about the ancestry and family of Charles Haddon Spurgeon of 'Tabernacle' fame in 1906 and in 1933 produced with M. A. Higgs, A history of the Higges or Higgs family, showing in quite remarkable detail the history of a yeoman family at Thatcham, Berkshire, and South Stoke, Oxfordshire, which eventually sold 500 copies [1140]. Another fine example of the period was the will indexer John Harold Morrison's The Underhills of Warwickshire (1932). In a review of Thomson’s Catalogue in 1936, Ronald Stewart-Brown (1872-1940), FSA, sheriff of Denbighshire and elected a Fellow in 1934, wrote that the standard of research had risen in recent years and that it was one of the aims of the Society, by example and criticism, to set a higher standard [1141], a view echoed by another member, Arthur W. Vivian-Neal (died 1962), who two years later wrote that 'one of the most useful functions of the Society' had been, by criticism and advice, to assist in the development of the now established and widely recognized conventions on which family histories were best constructed. In commending The Bax Family (1936) by Bernard Thistlethwaite (died 1960) he wrote that rarely of late was a family history found to lack an index or the necessary chart pedigrees required to simplify the tracing of intricate relationships [1142].

A few years later Charles Edmund Lart (1867-1947) [1143], the expert on French and Huguenot pedigrees, noted that 'Genealogical research to-day seems to trend towards the making of pedigrees of lesser folk and ordinary mortals, who are after all the backbone of a nation and can be carried back as far and father as those of "Great Families", with fewer unsavoury incidents - such for instance as that of the Oglanders, country squires in the Isle of Wight, just published under the title of A Royalist Diary' [1144].

Probate Records again

John Harold Morrison (1883-1935), the professional just mentioned for his work on the Underhill family, had joined the Society in 1930. He was an extraordinarily rapid and persistent worker and following the Underhill book he produced in quick succession three books derived entirely from the probate records at Somerset House. The first, Register Scrope, distributed to 67 subscribers in June 1934 and containing extracts of all the wills proved in the PCC in 1634, was an innovation in printing technique. It had been printed entirely on a Gestetner duplicating machine 'driven by a small motor (working on an ordinary electro-light circuit), and turning out copies of the pages at the rate of 70 a minute', he having cut the stencils on a Motor-Varityper which allowed him to use half a dozen different typefaces. Both techniques were only a few months old and this is thought to have been the first book of any size printed entirely in this manner. In the introduction he thanked the Superintendent of the Department for Literary Enquiry, Mr J. H. Pettit, for being 'unfailingly courteous in granting me all the facilities at his disposal'.

In December that year he published his second great work, an index containing abstracts of all the PCC administrations between 1620 and 1630. He was in a fever to fill in the gaps in the indexes printed by the British Record Society and in his preface wrote, 'Life is short by the measure of the work which remains to be done in this field ... It would remain to press on with the continuation of both series across the gulf which still intervenes before the official publications begin in 1858. And then the minor courts might receive further attention. How much of this will be accomplished, before the bombs fall and the original documents are destroyed for ever?' It was a prophetic comment but he did not live to see it come true. In August 1935 he published his third great work, an index to the PCC wills proved between 1661 and 1670. The Probate Act Book for the year 1662 was missing and, 'I had proposed', as he wrote in his Preface, 'with the aid of a friendly official, to collate my list with all the filed wills proved that year. But when this was about to be done, it was vetoed by Mr Horsford, of the Principal Probate Registry, who has done so much to obstruct access to the records of which he (unfortunately for all who are interested in them) is the official Keeper. Accordingly, unregistered wills proved in 1662 remain unlisted and unknown' [1145]. The official obstruction so well known in the Department had clearly preyed on his mind and with this final attack and after dedicating his book in Latin in a way which intimated that he was 'about to die', he dated the Preface 18th August and thirteen days later, upset also by the recent death of his mother, he gassed himself. He was fifty-one. Morrison's death greatly shocked the genealogical community and was long remembered and commented upon but the situation in the strong rooms at Somerset House remained the same.

Australian Society

Herbert J. Rumsey (died 1956) [1146], a member since 1924, had been a frequent visitor to the Society's rooms in 1931, assisting with the apprenticeship index, and was elected a Fellow in 1932. He returned to Australia and at a meeting of genealogists in Sydney on 29 August 1932 with Edward McCreery Shea Hill (1861-1946), a Fellow since 1911 and a member of early committees, and three others, was elected to a temporary committee to draw up a constitution for a projected Australian Society of Genealogists that Rumsey thought should function like the Society in London [1147]. The latter long considered the Society in Australia its 'daughter' and, although there was no formal connection, gave it what encouragement it could. In December 1933 our Magazine reported that Rumsey was the President and Hill the Honorary Secretary of the new Society and gifts of books would be welcome [1148]. The Society of Genealogists gave many duplicate volumes to the fledgling society and photocopied for its library several volumes of cemetery inscriptions.

Herbert Rumsey, who was the editor of The Australian Genealogist from 1932 to 1944, had himself witnessed the destruction by fire in 1886 of the Garden Palace building in Sydney where many public records had been stored. He came to England again in 1938 and spoke about the early and rapid development of his society in a talk after the Annual Meeting in July. His comments about the changing attitude to convict ancestry in Australia and the numerous claimants to dormant funds ('a common "complaint" with us') are particularly interesting [1149]. Hill had served as Secretary until 1942 [1150].

I have often said that it takes three generations or a hundred years for descendants to start questioning the reasons for some past great move in their families and by 1968 it was a hundred years since the last convicts were transportated to Western Australia, arriving in the Swan River on 9 January 1868. By 1978 it was reckoned that one in twenty living Australians had convict ancestors and great numbers of their descendants were happily tracing their ancestries and collecting as many convict ancestors as they could find [1151]. Many migrants went to New Zealand in the 1860s and it is no coincidence that the New Zealand Society of Genealogists at Auckland was not founded until 1968 [1152].

Society moves to Malet Place, 1933

George Sherwood had been talking about the need for larger premises in 1926 but the lease at Bloomsbury Square was not due to expire until 25 March 1933 and so little was done until 1932 when the search for alternative premises became really necessary. Their possible location was discussed at the Annual Meeting in July when it was formally proposed and agreed that whilst preferring to remain in the Bloomsbury Square neighbourhood, the Meeting was of the opinion 'that a move to another central quarter such as the region of Victoria would be justified if better financial terms could be obtained' [1153]. In September the Society advertised for 1,500 square feet, preferably located on the ground and first floors of a building somewhere in central London or Kensington and near a station [1154], and in December it announced 'with the utmost satisfaction' that it had secured premises in a quiet little cul-de-sac called Upper Malet Street (formerly Upper Gower Mews and today called Malet Place) near University College, within four minutes’ walk of the buses in Tottenham Court Road and Goodge Street Station [1155].

At the time the University of London was drastically transforming that whole area and had recently bought two acres of land to the south of University College formerly occupied by Messrs Shoolbred, [1156] the furniture store in Tottenham Court Road. On the land was a ‘black wreck of a warehouse’ which in 1931 the Carnegie UK Trust thought might be converted for use as the headquarters of the rapidly expanding Library Association with which the Trust shared premises in Bedford Square. Arundell Esdaile (1880-1956), the editor of the Library Association Record, who had looked at numerous possible buildings, fortunately had the vision to see the warehouse as it might be. It was transformed beyond recognition, just over half the needed funds coming from the Carnegie Trustees. It was Esdaile who suggested that it be named ‘Chaucer House’ [1157].

The necessary work on the building took place in the latter part of 1932 and the Library Association officially opened there in May 1933. The Society of Genealogists had negotiated a twenty-one year lease of the whole of the third floor, the 1,750 square feet being a major improvement on the 1,250 at Bloomsbury Square. I remember Chaucer House quite well, having taken the examinations of the Library Association there after the Society left, in the 1950s. In 1932 it was thought that the new premises were 'in what is becoming the most important centre of the intellectual life of London' [1158] but initially they were noisy with the building work going on around them and the approach, as the Magazine editor said, 'lacked dignity since it was through a converted mews'. In Chaucer House, the Museums Association took part of the floor above the Society, the Library Association occupying the first and second floors and adapting the remainder of the upper floor for its own library later in 1933 [1159]. At the same time the National Central Library obtained an adjacent building. The development of the nearby Senate House complex was completed in 1936.

A small reserve fund, tended by Percival Boyd, had been accumulating for some time [1160] and the Annual Report for 1932 said that 'Cash and investments stand at £987 5s 5d, so there should be no anxiety about meeting the expenses that will be incurred in removing to and fitting up the new and enlarged premises' [1161]. The total cost, including the dilapidations at Bloomsbury Square (£96), legal fees (£42-16-0) and new furniture and shelving, came to £640, borrowed from the Bank and secured on the Society's investments [1162].

The move in March 1933, overseen by Kathleen Blomfield, was a considerable undertaking, requiring new furniture and shelving, but there was a great improvement in space, light and comfort, and there was a lift to the third floor. The space there was partitioned into a large library for bound books, a room for the card indices and document collection with convenient tables and a small room for the Secretary. Kathleen Blomfield later described the Society's old home in Bloomsbury Square as 'a lovely house with a beautiful staircase and Adam decorations shewing dimly through the gloom of the accumulated dirt of years', adding that 'the atmosphere was friendly - more that of an intimate small club than the headquarters of a learned Society', but she believed that with the move to Chaucer House 'all this intimate atmosphere was lost' [1163]. It was a sentiment that one heard again after the removal from Harrington Gardens to Charterhouse Buildings in 1984. However, at the end of 1934 she was able to say that the rooms at Chaucer House, far from the traffic of Bloomsbury Way, were ‘above all, quiet’ [1164]. Of course not all were pleased with the location and the journalist Francis Humphrey-Davy (1880-1953), who had been secretary to Lord Northcliffe and a member for several years, wailed from Kensington, ‘I have no idea where Malet Place is or how to get to it, without a taxi’, and that was after having been sent a map and told about the buses! [1165].

Kathleen Blomfield had Claudia Ord-Young as her assistant during the move and until March 1934 when, for a while, she worked alone, but from September 1934 she had two assistants, Miss Audrey Jennings and Miss Anna Luddington. The latter had gone by March 1935 (and married in 1937) but Audrey Jennings, who had been born at Streatham in 1890 and was living at Berkhamstead, served loyally as Assistant Secretary [1166] into the War years.

The books were arranged in the new bookcases by Theodore Thomson [1167], the Honorary Librarian, who many years later recalled unpacking on arrival at Malet Place and, as he wrote to me, the 'ensuing battle with Mr Tonks' fittings' (the metal strips and tags in the new adjustable shelving) [1168]. He had divided the lists of library accessions published in the Magazine by subject for the first time in September 1932 and his arrangement of the Library followed this pattern, which had slowly developed and now forms the basis of the present library classification. Writing about the library in the March 1933 issue of the Magazine, Thomson said that the bookcases would be labelled and each book would have its place indicated on the inside of its front cover 'so that it may be put back in its proper place'. He hoped to have a new and much better catalogue completed by the end of the year. He invited the loan of further books, saying that they would be safe in the new library and pointed out that the library was especially weak in the large standard county histories and needed a copy of the Dictionary of National Biography and more army lists. Offers from members for the old bookshelves were welcomed [1169]. The rooms, previously open on Tuesdays until 8 pm, were after the move open only from 10 am to 6 pm (including Saturdays) and late-night opening was not re-instituted until late in 1954 after the Society’s next move.

One great advantage of the new building, however, was that the Society's previously overcrowded meetings and lectures could now be held in the Library Association's Council Chamber, a room on the second floor which held 250 people. As a result the numbers attending the monthly winter lectures more than doubled [1170]. At a reception to mark the opening of the new rooms on Tuesday, 10 October 1933, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Hanworth, gave a talk on 'The History of the Public Records' and there was an exhibition of illuminated pedigrees and 'objects more or less connected with genealogical science'. More than two hundred members and friends attended but the President, Lord Farrer, was unwell, his place being taken by Alfred Trego Butler, Windsor Herald and Chairman of the Executive Committee [1171].

The Annual Report for 1934 stressed the importance of the unique typescript volumes that were now being received in the Library, twenty-four having been received that year.  Mrs Blomfield said that although a member might not have the time to slip index a whole register containing perhaps 20,000 names and then to type the slips in quadruple copies, as had become usual, they might slip a smaller register, of twenty to forty pages, for the Society to have typed. A typed copy of the registers of Mitcham, Surrey, had been sold for six guineas. Donations to the fund, called the Research Fund, for typing the Vicar-General Marriage Licences and the Apprenticeship Index were few that year [1172], but greatly improved in 1935 when several manuscripts typed from the Fund (costing £44) were listed in the Annual Report [1173], it being there said that an average typescript volume cost £10 to produce. As a result it had been decided to add these costs (£250 in the year) to the 1933 valuation of the Library (£3,000) in the Balance Sheet.

When the Parish Register Society, founded in 1896, ceased publication in 1935 a donation of £60 was made to the Society of Genealogists and the Committee decided that it should be spent on the acquisition of further register copies [1174]. That same year 'an electric typewriting-machine' was purchased that enabled several copies of a transcript to be made at one operation [1175], one copy of each being sold to pay for more typing [1176] and in 1936 the Annual Meeting was told that many transcripts were in the process of being typed [1177].

Quantities of material for the document collection were also being received. In 1933 a large collection of extracts and copies of deeds, wills, parish registers and monumental inscriptions relating chiefly to Surrey and Sussex and made by Robert Garraway Rice, JP, FSA (1852-1933), of Carpenter’s Hill, Pulborough, who was well-known for his care and precision [1178], was received by bequest and filed by name and place in the “D.MSS”, as Sherwood called the Document Collection, D.MSS standing for Documents and Loose Manuscripts [1179].

However, in 1934 Kathleen Blomfield noticed that many members were disappointed that their gifts were not regularly being noted in the Magazine in which George Sherwood was now usually only recording the receipt of Birth Briefs. As a result, although the document collection 'is in the hands of Mr G. F. T. Sherwood', she began the system by which she endeavoured to acknowledge there practically everything that came in, although it was, as she wrote to John E. N. Walker, who had given an unacknowledged parcel of deeds relating to the Earls of Oxford, 'a severe tax on my already overfilled time' [1180]. The implied criticism of Sherwood is interesting. An unsigned note with the letter says, 'I can't find any entry in Mr Sherwood's book!' but he has curtly endorsed it 'Filed at "St Marylebone", Middx'. His rough and ready system was clearly not always working or indeed adequate.

About this time, for some unknown and not, I think, overly good reason, the member Oswald Knapp, instead of filing them in the D.MSS, pasted many miscellaneous abstracts and copies of documents into fifteen guard books, roughly in order of date, calling them ‘Evidences’, and provided each with an index [1181]. The D.MSS by family now filled 120 boxes and that by place 349 boxes, but there were in addition 160 parcels in order and 65 parcels awaiting attention, a somewhat daunting backlog.

Owing to the great influx of books some additional new shelving, costing £100, had to be obtained in the summer of 1936, the arrangement by county being continued within the bays, with runs of periodicals and outsize folios on the outer shelves [1182]. The sale of some old furniture had produced £12 the previous year [1183].

Following the death of the stalwart Revd Thomas Dale in 1937, the well-known antiquary Revd James Harvey Bloom (1860-1943) [1184], who had been a member since 1917, wrote a memorandum worrying about the Society, the lack of attention to the Card Index, the slow growth in membership and the need for publicity. The President, Lord Farrer, replied privately to his various points saying that with the recent new library shelving the Society probably had sufficient space for another seven years, though they were constantly receiving original documents, such as conveyances, mortgages and leases, from the British Records Association. John Francis Ainsworth had spent almost a year weeding duplicates from the Great Card Index and putting it in order but it did not remain in order due to the carelessness of the members. Farrer agreed that a paid librarian would be very desirable but the funds did not permit that or the expansion of the magazine. The total staff salaries in the last year had been £331 and the employment of a press agent was quite out of the question. Dr Dale's loss was indeed 'irreplaceable', he wrote, 'for he was the one person to whom the Staff could always appeal for information and from whom it was always forthcoming' [1185]. However, for a short time in the second half of 1937 the Society employed a 'Library Assistant', H. A. Taylor [1186], but the position was not retained into 1938 probably because of Kendall Percy-Smith's growing involvement in library matters.

Great Card Index

The problems with the Great Card Index mentioned by Lord Farrer had been exercising the Committee for a number of years and there were continual appeals for people to help with the sorting. At the same time the typing of particular surnames had been encouraged, but members sometimes applied for a selection of entries to be typed and it was decided in 1927 that typing could take place only if all the entries for a surname were typed, a fully typed index being the Society’s ultimate object [1187]. The slips thus typed could be purchased for three pence a hundred and lists of the names involved were then published in the Magazine [1188] The charge for typing was a shilling a sheet of about forty entries (a sample sheet for the surname Sabin was printed and sent with the Magazine), but non-members were charged 10s 6d a sheet [1189].

In 1931 the Editor of the Magazine wrote that 'a very large amount of time and labour is occupied in correcting the carelessness of those who replace the slips in the wrong order or even upside down' [1190]. At that time there was still a Secretary to the Slip-index Committee and Miss Florence Bowman (died 1962) [1191], a member since 1928 who had been elected a Fellow in 1930, and who had laboured so hard to keep things under control, gave up and was succeeded by Miss Marjory Sophia Sinclair (1896-1980), a Member who had joined in June 1930 and who lived in Red Lion Square. She came from a ship-building family in South Shields and described herself in the ‘1939 Register’ as a genealogist. The Annual Report for 1931 noted that the index then contained almost three million slips but that 'numerical progress had far outrun systematised order'. A hundred and forty-four non-members had used the index that year and the slips for thirty-eight surnames had been typed [1192].

In 1932, when Miss Sinclair was again appealing for help with the work [1193], it was said that although 6,112 slips had been added to the index (some twenty members being involved in the work), another 4,724 had been withdrawn after typing, and that 'this branch of the Society's work is clearly expanding', there being a larger proportion of Country Members and a decrease in the number of foreign visitors [1194]. The dedicated Miss Sinclair was elected a Fellow that December and the following year supervised the re-housing of the index in its new quarters at Chaucer House [1195].

In an effort to attract more slip sorters a series of special monthly meetings with excellent speakers was organised throughout the winter, 1933-34, and publicised in the Magazine. These were open only to sorters [1196]. At the first, on 4 October 1933, Miss Sinclair provided sherry and lemonade, her little party being glowingly reported in the Magazine as a further inducement to volunteers [1197]. A second party was held on 3 January 1934 when a Vice-President, Thomas Ulick Sadleir (died 1957) [1198], Deputy Ulster King of Arms, spoke about his records [1199]. The other speakers were the Revd Thomas Dale, Edward Lynam, C. B. Oldman, Guy Parsloe and T. Rowland Powell [1200].

When Thomas Dale spoke to the sorters on 14 February 1934 he said that the size of the index, which he thought about two million slips, was only slowly increasing because of the slow trickle of new slips and the typing. As a result very few 'interests' were being sent to members (they were normally sent every quarter) [1201] and many members received none at all. In the first dozen years of the Society the enthusiasm for the index had been immense but it had then fallen away. He had made an analysis of the 6,667 slips added in 1931 and showed how very miscellaneous they were. He calculated that, at the very most, only 440 parish registers had been completely slipped [1202]. The number of slips added in 1933 had again fallen to 5,267. Some seventeen surnames had been typed [1203].

Following the report of Dale's talk Lieut. Colonel Henry Ramsay Phipps (1874-1949) who, over the last three years had spent much time on the index, cross-referencing variants in letter 'B' and removing a large number of duplicates, contributed 'Some Remarks on the Card Index' to the Magazine and said that the Society should give strict guidance as to the records suitable for indexing, stressing that every slip should be self-explanatory and that the lists of variant surnames on the head cards were a valuable guide to the beginner. People should be told to be more careful in its use. His outspoken comments about users and typists also queried the curious and unexplained way in which the slips were re-arranged into chronological order before being typed. On that point he received no answer [1204]. Colonel Phipps's many quite rude, but entirely justified comments, scribbled in thick black pencil on the slips about the foolishness of users and contributors, their handwriting and their inability to sort correctly, are probably still sometimes found, though a shocked Mrs Sherwood removed the worst of them! I remember also the deep embarrassment and offence caused to one visiting searcher by the comment 'Wasters all' that Colonel Percy-Smith had scrawled on a slip relating to the man's family!

Unfortunately Miss Sinclair was obliged by pressure of other work to resign the Honorary Secretaryship of the Card Index in the autumn of 1934. An optimistic note that appealed for a successor said that the index was in good working order and only required supervision for two or three hours a week, but two more sorters were needed [1205]. The same story was told three months later [1206] and it was presumably after this that the new member mentioned by Lord Farrer, John Francis Ainsworth (1912-1981), just out of College and working as a professional genealogist but also a member of the Executive Committee,  agreed to be Honorary Secretary, the Annual Report congratulating him ‘on the headway he has made in the formidable task of going through each box, sorting the sadly disarranged slips, eliminating duplicates and typing or orienting neat head cards to replace those which in the past have been badly written’ [1207]. Some 13,377 slips had been added that year but in 1935 John Ainsworth, who was ‘now engaged elsewhere’, was only able to attend for a short period each week and only 7,280 slips were added [1208]. In 1936 an appeal was made for contributors to contact the Society before indexing a parish register as it had been found in 1934 that letter 'A' had about 33% of slips in duplicate and about 10% in triplicate. Contributors were requested to type their slips, something that must have dissuaded many from helping, and to follow the Society's scheme of abbreviations [1209].

In 1938 Percival Boyd described the task of keeping the slips in order as a 'labour of Sisyphus', for as fast as they were put in order members carelessly mixed them up again. In an effort to get more typed, the Society offered to type names at 3d a sheet, accepting postage stamps in payment [1210], and large numbers of names were then typed [1211]. In March 1942 it was announced that new material coming into the card index would be placed at the end of the surnames concerned and divided from the slips already there by a red card, but that the Executive Committee wished to limit the slips added, there being (because of the War) no voluntary labour to keep them in order. This and the recommendation that entries be placed on quarto sheets that might be filed in the Document Collection, spelled the end of the Great Card Index as a growing entity [1212], though for thirty years from the 1960s onwards the research assistant Alan William Rolfe regularly filed large numbers of 'stray' entries and 'late baptisms' [1213] which he found whilst searching London parish registers.

Research and Professionals

Wear and tear on the Great Card Index had reached a height in 1931 when, Mrs Blomfield later said, seventeen day-searchers from overseas were using the library every week, but the number had fallen to only two or three a week in the 1934 summer 'season'. The Society was, however, then receiving far more letters from America (as well as those from Germany mentioned below), the enquirers seeking to establish connections with well-known English families and to use their arms [1214].

As a result, just prior to the move, in 1932, the Executive Committee agreed to revise the scale of charges for more general searches in the library. A day's search was now to cost ten shillings, a shorter search being charged pro rata, with a minimum of 2s 6d. Non-members were to be charged double these rates [1215]. A note in the catalogue of parish registers printed in 1924, however, had already indicated that members requiring extended searches ‘by the Secretary’ would be charged ten shillings a day.

I have not seen the letter from Harvey Bloom mentioned above but it seems that he asked about the possibility of recommendations for professional work, as in his reply Lord Farrer added that the Society did not recommend record agents and that he was sure that this was 'the right attitude for a voluntary society'. According to his advertisement in The Genealogists’ Magazine, Harvey Bloom 'specialized in family and parochial history, transcripts and translations' [1216]. He had, of course, over many years been responsible for a series of highly regarded published works, including not least the well-paid but unacknowledged transcription of the deeds at Warwick Castle for Lady Warwick’s Warwick Castle and its Earls (2 vols. 1903) for which she sent him £50, more than double his estimate [1217].

In July 1931 there had been a sharp exchange at the Annual Meeting when the well-known professional Reginald Glencross, a much respected Life Fellow and supporter of the Magazine in which he had advertised since March 1929, asked for a reply to a letter in which he had inquired as to the Secretary's method of dealing with people who applied for the names of professional searchers, asking on what principle their selection was made. In reply Lord Farrer, the President who was also a member of the Executive Committee, read a letter that he had sent to the Secretary (Mrs Bell) instructing her to refer all such enquiries to the Executive Committee until a definite rule had been formulated. George Waterworth Younger, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and Theodore Thomson proposed that a list of professionals be prepared and given to inquirers but Thomas Dale and George Sherwood wanted the matter referred to the Executive Committee and it was eventually agreed that the Executive's decision be put to an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Society [1218]. Immediately thereafter in July 1931 the Executive agreed that it recommend that 'the Secretary be not allowed to give any names whatever of Record Searchers to inquirers' she being directed to strictly adhere to that rule [1219]. One has the impression that this was the view urged by Lord Farrer. He took the chair at the Extraordinary Meeting on 8 October when the suggested 'rule' was approved 'without dissent' it being pointed out that the Secretary of the Public Record Office kept a list of record agents and that inquirers might be directed there [1220]. That, of course, did not help those looking for local searchers outside London.

The Society's negative attitude to professionals is summarised in an interesting letter written by Kathleen Blomfield in 1937, 'The Society exists primarily for amateur genealogists who undertake their own research work aided by the records we are able to place at their disposal. Anything which increased the professional element is therefore not to be encouraged within the Society' [1221].

However, shortly afterwards, when Lord Farrer was no longer on the Executive Committee, the Society had second thoughts about its attitude and for the first time in March 1939 published a list of some eighteen record searchers which had been recommended to the Society for their work by its Members [1222]. At least eight of them had advertised in the journal. In the years 1929-39 there had been 38 advertisers of genealogical services in the Magazine. Of these nineteen were local searchers, eleven were London based (including those doing heraldic work),three in Ireland, one in Scotland, one in Germany (Peter von Gerbhardt in Berlin in 1929-30), one scrivener and two dealers in deeds.

The people on this list of 'Recommended Searchers' introduced in 1939 had, in theory, been recommended by at least two members for whom they had done work. From June to September 1939 the list contained twenty names but the number declined greatly during the War and for some years afterwards when only four or five people were listed [1223]. The number rose from eight to thirteen in 1957. The list was, however, a sensible compromise which was widely used to answer unwanted research requests and it lasted until after the foundation of the Association of Genealogists and Record Agents in the 1970s. The only problem with the list was that once a name appeared there was no agreed machinery for removing it!

Deeds Legal and Illegal

At the end of her first year at the Society, Kathleen Bell (or Mrs Blomfield as she became in 1933) accepted an advertisement in the Magazine from Artcards Ltd of Folkestone, Kent, saying simply, 'Earn money writing Showcards at home. We teach and supply work' [1224]. She charged a guinea for four insertions of the text [1225] and the first appeared in mid-March 1932 when a member at Folkestone was quick to point out that Artcards was only that week being charged with conspiracy to defraud and that the case was receiving a good deal of notice in the local newspapers. The case went to the Old Bailey in May when five young men were given various terms of hard labour in connection with bogus advertisements for home employment. Their advertisements had appeared in a wide range of journals and one of the men had boasted that they had received 30,000 orders, each usually containing about £4, in six months [1226].

William Gun, one of the joint-editors of the Magazine, had meanwhile sought advice about the Society's legal position from Harry Pirie-Gordon (1883-1969) [1227] a Founder and Fellow who was on the editorial staff of The Times, and he in turn consulted the Manager of The Times, who said that the advertisement should continue to appear until a verdict was obtained [1228]. Fortunately it was thus not necessary to include the advertisement in the June issue.

It was not the first such case to interest the Society and in March 1928 it had expelled from membership one Colonel Edmund Octavius Eaton (1864-1946), of St Leonards, Sussex, who for twenty-five years had promoted bogus companies and in January had been sentenced at the Old Bailey to four years penal servitude for conspiracy, with a bankrupt baronet and others, to defraud through the extraordinary Chalk Fuel Power Gas and By-Products Corporation Limited [1229]. His prospectuses were often aimed at women and he perhaps had more interest in the possible use of the Society’s membership list than in tracing his ancestors.

In 1933, however, Mrs Blomfield began to receive complaints from members in America to whom she had forwarded letters from a Mr R. Bolton or Vincent, as he was sometimes called, of 273 Moseley Road, Birmingham. Bolton had been taking members' names and addresses from the Magazine and offering deeds and documents about their families for relatively small amounts of money. The money he always acknowledged in a most business-like manner but the documents never arrived. Members were warned against such offers in the Magazine [1230] and in November 1934 Mrs Blomfield was able to say that Bolton had been convicted of false pretences and sentenced to nine months imprisonment [1231].

The trade in deeds and documents of every description was widespread at this time. James Coleman left some 50,000 documents at his death in 1908 and these were sorted into county lots and offered for sale by his executors at the rate of £10 per 100, Edward Alexander Fry having specimen lots on view at his office at 124 Chancery Lane [1232]. Only two counties were sold immediately and the remainder were marketed by Coleman’s successors, S. & E. Coleman, who also published catalogues, 1910-13. About 1,500 deeds were bought by the National Library of Wales which published detailed abstracts of them [1233]. Meanwhile some of the stock had been taken over by another dealer Frank Marcham (1883-1944), of Edmonton, who with his brother, William McBeath Marcham (who lived at Hornsey and edited the local Court Rolls), was particularly interested in the early stage and in material about Shakespeare, publishing works on The King's Office of the Revels (1925) and on William Shakespeare and his daughter Susannah (1931). Frank Marcham, the son of a surveyor, had been interested in bibliography from an early age. He was a member of the Society from 1919 and joined the long established firm of Myers & Co, booksellers and printsellers in New Bond Street. Although he had come through the South African and First World Wars safely, he was killed in a bombing raid in Camberwell in 1944. Kathleen Blomfield called him 'an industrious and painstaking worker who spent a vast amount of time in research without expectation or hope of pecuniary reward' [1234].

Another extremely well known dealer in records of every description Herbert Richard Moulton (1861-1939), of Richmond, Surrey (later active in connection with the Society’s Jubilee Exhibition), in 1930 produced an enormous 342-page and large format illustrated catalogue Palaeography, Genealogy and Topography, in which he gave short but careful abstracts of some 10,000 deeds which he had for sale, ranging in date from the 12th to the 19th century. In 1936 he produced an 120-page index to the 30,000 surnames mentioned which aroused considerable interest [1235]. In a review of the catalogue itself George Sherwood wrote that it was a great advance on the earlier catalogues of the dealer, James Coleman, 'a pioneer of this kind of thing' [1236]. The Society has a long run of Coleman's catalogues (9 vols. 1859-1911) collected by Frederick Snell and to these, also in 1936, the member Brigadier-General Alfred E. J. Cavendish (1859-1943) added a valuable slip index in seventeen trays to the 45,000 names mentioned in the catalogue's short extracts [1237]. In 1931 Sherwood himself advertised 'Neglected old deeds and papers, after I had looked through them, realised £765. May I look at yours?' [1238].

It could thus be a busy time for frauds of the kind perpetrated by Mr Bolton and in March 1933 the journal Truth drew attention to the activities of Janson & Co of 12-13 Prudential Buildings, Clapham Common, which had circulated people with relatively frequent surnames, such as Warren, Finch and Bennett, announcing that they were writing histories of their families. They offered a discount if payment were made in advance, saying that a volume which would cost five guineas after publication could be purchased for £4, a deposit of £1 being required with the order, but that a copy could be secured by paying three guineas with the order. The firm had left the Clapham Common address in September 1932, but letters were still being forwarded and it was now trading from 56 Alderbrook Road, Balham [1239].

In July 1933 under the heading 'Bogus Genealogists' Harvest: Victims from U.S.: Missing Heirs: Guineas Roll In', the Daily Mail reported that the United States Consul-General's Office in London was receiving more than sixty letters a week from people who believed that they were missing heirs, and said that bogus genealogists in England were reaping a rich harvest by preying on the vanity of people who believed that they had claims to noble birth. Without naming the firm the article went on to describe the activities of Janson & Co, saying that some time ago 'a trickster living in obscurity in South London' had collected subscriptions for a history of the Bennett family that never appeared. The Daily Mail leader said, 'Some of these genealogies may be genuine, but in most imagination plays a large part. Human credulity, however, in such matters is only too anxious to be duped' [1240]. As a result of the article the firm commenced an action for libel against Associated Newspapers, the owners of the Daily Mail, but it was not pressed [1241].

The forthright member Phyllis Shield (1896-1968), the step-daughter of Gerald Fothergill who lived at Wandsworth and was well known for her strong and un-ladylike language, took an interest in Janson's activities and in October 1933 found that 'our slippery friend' was living at 15 Evelyn Mansions, W.14. She wrote, 'Oh how I'd like to have him right under my hands in a nice quiet corner where he could not run away, and where there were not any witnesses! I'd tell him much for the good of his soul' [1242].

In 1935 another member, Colonel Ernest Achey Loftus (1884-1987) [1243] of West Tilbury, Essex (the first headmaster of Barking Abbey School and later, according to the Guinness Book of Records, ‘the longest serving civil servant in the world’), was given a circular that had been received by his father-in-law, Allen Charles Cole, about a proposed history of the Cole family. It was from Janson & Co, now trading at 6 Conduit Street, London W1, and Colonel Loftus entered into correspondence with the firm in order to discover the name of the man who was supposedly working on the book. The latter was, of course, 'so busily engaged with the work of completing this book that he regrets that however much he would like to meet his different correspondents he is really unable to find the time' [1244].

A little later in 1936 a man describing himself as Sir John Brunton of the Faculty of Genealogical Research, also at 6 Conduit Street, London, offered 'authentic and certified Crests and complete genealogies' of 'intense interest' on the 'finest parchment' [1245]. Complaints were so numerous that Scotland Yard began to take an interest and Mrs Blomfield was able to say that by March 1940 the 'Faculty' no longer existed [1246].

However, Janson & Co had again moved and was at 7 Princes Street, Hanover Square, sending out circulars about a projected history of the Roberts families, said to be by one 'F. B. S. Roberts, assisted by a well-known historian and genealogist', which was to be published in December 1937, but again the book never appeared. This particularly annoyed Mrs Ethel Adair Impey (nee Roberts; 1877-1961) [1247] a Society member in Birmingham and a generous benefactress who was herself about to publish A Roberts family: quondam Quakers of Queen's County (1939). She continued enquires about 'F. B. S. Roberts' for some years but, not surprisingly, without success [1248].

The prospectus that Mrs Impey had received said that the firm had published histories of the Armitage, Banastre or Bannister, Chapman, Finch, I'Anson, Martyn or Martin and Wightman families, and histories of these seven families had indeed been printed; all had been compiled by Arthur ‘Bryan’ I'Anson (1873-1949). Five had been published in the period 1914-18, including that on the I’Anson family in 1915 'for the Genealogical Research Society', an organisation which did not exist, but the histories of the Finch and Martyn families had not appeared until 1933 and 1935 respectively.

Bryan I’Anson, from Saltburn in Yorkshire, was the son of a civil engineer and had been a fairly prosperous chartered accountant in Middlesbrough but his father died in 1915 and by 1918 he had moved to Epsom, Surrey, where his wife died in 1930, aged 51. He had continued to describe himself as an accountant and in 1935 was at 60 Warwick Street, Westminster, but he married again in 1936 and continued at that address until at least the outbreak of War. He died in Kensington in 1949 and his widow in Chelsea in 1981 [1249]. One presumes that following the death of his first wife he had intended to compile and publish a number of family histories for which the subscribers largely sent him the material and he was undoubtedly the man behind Janson & Co [1250], ‘Janson’ sometimes being an alternative form of ‘I’Anson’. His initial intentions may not have been fraudulent but he seems to have found it more remunerative to take subscriptions than to compile books. After the police involvement at Conduit Street in 1936 and his second marriage that year, no further books appeared. Large numbers of prospectuses had, however, been circulated and people still came forward asking for these phantom publications into the 1950s and 1960s, as I well remember.

Another particularly tiresome fraud which Kathleen Blomfield had to deal with was that perpetrated by the then young William Kingston Fudge (1904-1985) through magazines called The Topographical Quarterly and The Genealogical Quarterly owned by his company, Fudge and Co Ltd, of 94 York Road, SE1. In July 1933, just a few days before its disclosure of the activities of Janson & Co, the Daily Mail's reporter Montague Smith, who wrote that 'the world is full of people who think they are missing heirs' but that 'it also contains a few astute individuals who are prepared to foster that delusion at a price', noted that several readers had recently written to record the receipt of a postcard with the following announcement: "The Topographical Quarterly. The Editor presents his compliments and, in case you have not seen the Summer number of the Topographical Quarterly, begs respectfully to draw your attention to its Index to Advertisements for Next-of-Kin, Missing Heirs and Relatives, in the world's newspaper press, which mentions the name of ...". The postcards gave only the surname without forename or initials for that would, as Montague Smith wrote, 'assist in identification and blur our hopes at the same time'. The cards mentioned that copies of the Quarterly could be obtained from the publisher for 5s 6d post free, or 'if you do not wish to purchase it, ask for it at your library'. The cards concluded, "The Editor feels that you probably would wish to be informed of the matter".

'Recipients', as Montague Smith wrote, 'can hardly fail to think that the fortune is as good as theirs', and he went off to 94 York Road, near Waterloo Station, finding it to be the Pentland Bookshop, a dusty emporium of second hand books looking 'as much as possible unlike the Gateway to Wealth'. He bought a copy of the Quarterly and found that it contained about 300 names, complete with forenames or initials, but not addresses, taken from newspapers around the world. The details of the entry in the appropriate newspaper could be obtained on payment of a further 2s 6d.

Asking to see the publisher, Montague Smith was introduced to an informative Mr Fudge who admitted that for every issue of his journal he sent out about 20,000 postcards to people with similar surnames, their addresses taken from telephone directories in English-speaking countries, but that only about six libraries in the world actually subscribed to his Quarterly. Sometimes he concentrated his mailing on one town so that people would ask the local library for copies and encourage it to subscribe. He had only about a thousand actual subscribers and the copies of each issue cost him about two shillings. Mr Fudge claimed to be 'fulfilling a very useful purpose' but as Montague Smith's article remarked, 'Quite so, but for whom?' [1251].

Despite a warning article in the June 1935 Magazine which quoted extensively from a further interview with Mr Fudge, 'a short dark man with a merry eye and an infectious laugh', in the Evening Standard of 16 March [1252], dozens of people then and for the next thirty or forty years contacted the Society with copies of the pale green post cards that they or their relatives had received. Finding the idea remunerative Mr Fudge and his staff of twelve also published lists of names taken from old trade directories and sent out similar postcards as from the Genealogical Quarterly with offices in Lincoln's Inn Fields, drawing attention to 'information regarding the ... family'. For this Quarterly the annual subscription was 17s 6d but in it the unhappy subscriber found only a name and address.

In 1937 the periodical John Bull recounted the story of a reader called Dench who had received a card from the Genealogical Quarterly saying that its autumn issue contained some interesting information about the Dench family. He had paid 5s 6d for that issue by post and found that the information consisted of a one-line entry headed 'Leading Tradesmen of London in 1830' which ran 'Dench, Thomas, Hardwareman, 3, Shoe Lane, Fleet Street'. For every 20,000 postcards sent out Mr Fudge was said to receive 1,000 replies. John Bull concluded, 'Queer method of earning a living!' [1253]. The industrious Mr Fudge took exception to this, claiming that the article suggested that he was a dishonest and fraudulent publisher and was thus libellous. His action against Odham's Press Ltd (the owners of John Bull) eventually went to a Special Jury in the King's Bench Division in 1939 but was thrown out with costs [1254].

Meanwhile Mrs Blomfield had had to find excuses not to address circulars for Mr Fudge, not to refer the authors of rejected Magazine articles to him and not to place a reciprocal advertisement in his journal or co-operate with him in any way, though he claimed that the Genealogical Quarterly was 'purely and simply a magazine sold to subscribers (chiefly libraries)' and that he would promote the objects of the Society and 'the interests of its professional members' [1255]. His magazines and postcards continued to cause problems for several decades, many enquirers supposing that the Genealogical Quarterly was the Society's publication.

A rare case of champerty (the making of a bargain to share the proceeds of a lawsuit in the event of its success, then illegal in common law) came up in July 1935 when Mr Justice Eve in the Chancery Division held that an agreement by which Mrs Margaret Mary Charlotte Uttley, of Heywood, Lancashire, had contracted to pay Messrs Alfred J. Hooper and Company, a well-known firm of probate genealogists founded in 1923, one-third of her share of the estate of Miss Alice Jane Blake, a cousin once removed who had died intestate worth £7,569, was disgraceful and void. He gave judgment for the plaintiff with costs [1256]. Mrs Uttley claimed that she was cajoled into signing the document by Alfred James Hooper who told her that the money had been in Chancery for over a hundred years and that it would not be released - and none of the other beneficiaries would get anything - unless she signed. She had no idea that she would be giving away one-third of her share. All this was denied by Mr Hooper who said that he had conducted lengthy searches, including use of the 1841 and 1851 census returns to prove the pedigree. His firm's total expenses were £161 16s 6d and it would have received roughly £2,000 [1257].

Papal Registers

In June 1934 the Magazine reported that a correspondent from Australia had written to say that when he was in Rome in 1884 'he was assured by the officials of the Vatican Library that all persons born in England from the time of St Augustine to the present time, of the Catholic Faith, had their names recorded in the registers of the Library, thus providing an immense store of genealogical information'. However, the officials said that no one was allowed to examine these registers without special leave from the Court of Cardinals, which leave was difficult to obtain.

The Magazine editors thought that the officials 'were misled by a too exuberant imagination' [1258] but George Percy Townend (1864-1941), an early Fellow of the Society who lived in Australia and claimed to have seen some of the registers, wrote to say that they were kept with such secrecy that no British archivist would be allowed even to know of their existence [1259]. The dreams of this former tester of worsted yarns from Bradford were, however, shattered when on 17 January 1935 the Prefect of the Archives at the Vatican said that no part of the archives was kept in such secrecy and that there were no such registers as those described [1260]. Sadly, of course, the story caught on and occasionally continues to raise its unlikely head.

Trinity House Petitions

In September 1934 it was announced that the Corporation of Trinity House had presented to the Society several thousand petitions from the wives and children of distressed seamen, 1780-1854, and Major Edward Parker Stapleton, OBE (1890-1967), of Barkston Gardens, who was sorting them into order, described them in the Magazine, some 44 volumes having already been bound and placed on the library shelves [1261]. Major Stapleton completed the work, in 102 volumes, in 1938 [1262].

Apparently at a later date (probably during the War) a number of further petitions were passed to the Society but not dealt with. They were placed in one of the basement stores in the housekeeper's flat in Harrington Gardens at the time of the move in 1954 and not found again until I cleared the bin during the structural alterations in 1969 [1263]. These also were then bound up and placed on the shelves. With them were a large number of interesting apprenticeship indentures and other papers for the period 1818-1845 (with one for the year 1780) and an index to them by Mrs Margaret Duggan was published in the Magazine [1264].

Genealogists’ Handbook

At the Annual Meeting in July 1934 William Gun suggested that the Society produce a handbook containing a list of the parish registers in its possession, specimens of calligraphy, a list of probate registries and other useful information, and the idea was referred to the Executive Committee [1265]. As a result in November 1935, Mrs Blomfield organised the first edition of a 20-page Genealogists' Handbook: being an introduction to the pursuit of genealogy (1935) containing basic information about parish registers, marriage licences, wills, searching at the Public Record Office, the College of Arms, with notes on Scottish, Welsh and Irish genealogy, and facsimile examples of the letters found in 16th and 17th century registers. The latter were, at the suggestion of Percival Boyd, included and written by the heraldic artist and calligrapher Claire G. M. Evans (died 1965) [1266]. An offprint of this key, with a map of the area around Chaucer House, was used as a publicity leaflet (costing 6d) which stressed the facilities for non-members then available at 13s 6d a day or 7s 6d for half a day [1267].

Much of the material in the Handbook had been collected by Theodore Thomson [1268] and the Annual Report for 1935 credits the original idea to him [1269]. A note in the Magazine, that he or Kathleen Blomfield perhaps wrote, showed great sympathy for the struggles of the beginner [1270]. The book sold for a shilling and received warm reviews in The Law Times and elsewhere [1271]. By the end of 1936 it had sold 526 copies mostly outside the membership and Mrs Blomfield wrote in the Annual Report that ‘better support from Members for this excellent publication would be appreciated’ [1272]. One understands why she was not greatly liked! The income was carried forward into the 1937 Accounts when the booklet had made a profit of £28 in the year (and a further £12-18-0 in 1938), ‘quite a considerable sum for a publication selling at a shilling’ [1273]. The review in The Law Times told the story of an old Scottish genealogist who, when he quarrelled with any of his acquaintances, used to threaten to 'bastardise' them, as his investigations in family history had shown him that if he went back far enough he was almost sure to find at least one ancestor who was a bastard! The little book was reprinted in 1944 and again in 1948.

Irish Newspapers

In late 1935 the Society received on loan from Herbert C. R. Gillman (1912-1970) a set of the rare Irish newspaper the Hibernian Chronicle, October 1769-1802, and was given donations totalling £20 to start a fund to index the births, marriages and deaths recorded in its pages. A further £6 was received in 1936 and good progress made, the years 1769-1775 being quickly completed in two typescript volumes [1274].


The Society had for some time hoped to publish a new List of Members and eventually decided to do so in the Silver Jubilee Year. The list was in the printer’s hands by the end of 1935 and it appeared early in 1936 [1275]. Its successor waited until the next Jubilee in 1961.

At the Annual Meeting in June 1936 Lord Farrer proposed and it was agreed that under Article 10 not more than three Honorary Members at any one time might be elected [1276]. It is not clear what prompted that proposal, but in September that year, without any formal alteration in the Society's Articles, it was announced that in future second and subsequent Members of the same family residing at the same address could on election pay one-half the entrance fee and one half the annual subscription, they receiving only one copy of the Magazine and of any notices [1277]. I am not sure when the charge was first introduced (or indeed abandoned, for astonishingly it was never mentioned in the Magazine) but in the 1937 Annual Report Kathleen Blomfield remarked on the increased number of day students who were using the library, saying that ‘the arrangement whereby those engaged on special research for a limited period could take out a monthly season ticket for one guinea’ had been especially popular [1278].

Silver Jubilee Exhibition

It had been the intention to hold an exhibition in March 1936 to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary or Silver Jubilee of the Society but this was postponed owing to the death of King George V [1279] and the 'Exhibition of Genealogical and Heraldic Records' eventually took place in the Library Association's Hall at Chaucer House from Tuesday, 29 June, to Saturday, 3 July 1937, the Society's rooms being closed at that time. It was thought that London would still be full of overseas visitors for the Coronation in May [1280] and more than 1,200 attended [1281]. Some prior publicity in the Daily Telegraph proved useful [1282].

An organising sub-committee with Cregoe Nicholson in the chair had been set up in 1935 [1283] and the exhibition, which was designed to be instructional rather than just a display of rarities, involved various well-known specialists. George Sherwood was responsible for the section on Chancery Proceedings, Reginald Glencross for that on marriage licences and Catholic records, Anthony Wagner for that on the Heralds' Visitations, and Harvey Bloom for that on early deeds. Frank Tyler provided photographs of various parish registers. Eric Geijer, Rouge Dragon Pursuivant, organised a fine heraldic display for which Wilfred Harris loaned some heraldic silver. The Librarian of the Institute of Historical Research provided a section of works illustrating 'Preserving and Making Accessible the National Records' and to this Lt. Colonel W. R. Mansfield contributed some impressive examples of his pioneering work on luminograms using ultra-violet light [1284]. Amongst others the dealer Herbert Richard Moulton loaned a large number of original documents from his collection and the Society's library was plundered for typical examples.

The Eugenics Society, which donated £30 towards the cost of the Exhibition [1285], showed several pedigrees 'illustrating how talents, health, various forms of skill as well as diseases and mental disorders and defects are passed from one generation to another', the accent being on positive rather than negative traits, though one of Lidbetter's pedigrees was also shown as 'part of a research into the population of an East London area'. The Eugenics Society had displayed pedigrees at many exhibitions and public meetings over the years, pointing up its moral and biological message, and it found that they were a 'powerfully direct means of persuasion' [1286] though, as Robert Resta has pointed out, they were sometimes extremely misleading and, on close study, revealed more about the biases of their compilers than about the families displayed [1287]. The exhibition catalogue controversially noted that, 'It is difficult to separate the effects of environment and heredity. There is little doubt that both contribute to the result, but where there is no inherited ability, the best environment cannot produce talent which is not innate. A bad inheritance tends to produce a bad environment and placing defective people in a good environment does not raise them above a certain low standard' [1288]. It would be interesting to know how many members of the Society of Genealogists shared those views.

The Secretary, Kathleen Blomfield, was responsible for much of the exhibition's organisational work and it was, from the publicity point of view, a considerable success, though Queen Mary was unfortunately unable to come. There was a private view on the Monday evening attended by the President, Lord Farrer, and an array of notabilities from the record and library world [1289]. Mrs Blomfield was keen to stress that this was the first exhibition of its kind in England [1290] but the newspapers were more interested in some of the pedigrees provided by the Eugenics Society that showed, for example, the transmission of colour-blindness and the genealogy of the Terry and Gielgud families [1291]. A diary started by Anne Prewe in 1581 and added to over some three hundred years by members of the Nicholson family also attracted much attention [1292], as did the pedigree of the former Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin (created Earl Baldwin earlier in the month), which showed that his ancestor renounced any right to Arms in 1663 [1293]. The curious records of the 'Society of Unanimous Sisters' of Sunderland, founded in 1818, which were exhibited, were also noticed [1294]. In interviews Mrs Blomfield said that the Society's work had doubled in the last year, the number of casual visitors doubling in the last five months [1295]. The value of the Great Card Index, of the growing index to apprentices and of Boyd's Marriage Index, was frequently mentioned [1296]. The fact that genealogy 'is not necessarily an expensive process and that it is a most enjoyable task for one to do it oneself' was also remarked upon [1297]. There was even an informative article in Exchange & Mart [1298].

Entrance to the exhibition was free but a detailed catalogue had been put together and was available for a shilling. Its striking cover, with a design of different generations of people in a tree surrounded by simple coats of arms, was again the work of the heraldic artist Claire Evans [1299]. The drawing was far too good to use only once and I later adapted it for use as the cover for many editions of the library guide. Receipts from the sale of the catalogue were supposed to cover most of the cost of the exhibition (some £146 [1300]) but a considerable number remained unsold. They were the subject of an appeal to the members later in the year [1301] and still not selling the price was reduced to six pence in 1939 [1302]. The publicity for the exhibition had overlapped with that for the centenary of the General Register Office for which an important exhibition at Somerset House had also been organised [1303].

Publicity for the Society was doing quite well and in 1938 the cartoonist Lee did two drawings of incidents at the front door of the Society for his series ‘London Laughs’ in the Evening News. In one a wealthy but explosive gentleman is entering a chauffeur-driven car exclaiming, ‘Well! They tell me my great-great, great, great, great grandfather was hanged for stealing sheep’ [1304] and in the other a sad monkey-faced gentleman is saying, ‘They’ve traced me back umpteen generations … then there’s a link missing somewhere’.

'Pure Blood'

Byrom Bramwell's article on cousin marriages (mentioned above) resulted from a lecture on 11 January 1939 which attracted considerable notice in the press. The talk had been publicised in the column 'What's On' in the Daily Express that morning which said 'you can get in free if you let them know beforehand' and it took the line that every stranger passed in Tottenham Court Road was at least one's thirteenth cousin and that cousin marriages were more frequent in the north then in the south, being uncommon in Devon and very infrequent in London. The lecture concluded that people were gradually becoming more related to each other and that English people today are more unlike those on the Continent than they were 600 years ago. The talk and subsequent interviews with Bramwell were reported in the News Chronicle, the Eastern Daily Press (Norwich), the Daily Herald and the Liverpool Post, the last saying, 'Touching a certain fashion for 'Aryan' ancestry, Mr Bramwell said that in the case of English families, if there were no Jewish ancestors in the last three generations it was most unlikely that there would be any further back'.

After the racial decrees were promulgated in Germany in 1933 the Society of Genealogists dealt with 'many hundred inquiries' and it received more after the annexation of Austria in 1938. In 1934 Mrs Blomfield said that nine out of ten did not know the maiden names of their grandmothers, others with ancestral marriages in London had 600 parishes to search but the record of a marriage at an Anglican church was considered sufficient evidence of 'non-contamination'. Most enquiries were from the professional classes and many were from English widows of German officials [1305]. Seeing an opportunity for a little work the professional genealogist Reginald Glencross of Wimbledon advertised in the March 1935 Magazine, 'Aryan descents traced’. The following year the News Chronicle reported that a whole new industry had sprung up, but that Hitler was not satisfied with registration at Somerset House and demanded certified copies of entries from incumbents and ministers. Occasional assistance from the 1861 census cost the Society ten shillings for each entry [1306]. The Society had noticed that in Germany itself practising genealogists had now to be examined in heraldry and history before being registered with the 'Board of Family Research'. Those with local knowledge were particularly welcomed and set fees could then be charged [1307].

In 1938 Mrs Blomfield was reported as saying that, 'The inquirers, professional men or government officials, often have to establish their pedigree back to 1790' and that she had helped many with English ancestry who were worried about their positions. The search fee was £1 a day, but she often did it for much less as those affected could not send more than ten shillings a time out of their country. She said, 'we are so sorry for these poor people - it is often a matter of life or death for them to get the information - that we try to trace their family history as we would for our own members' [1308]. The authenticity of some claims was doubted and at the end of the War a reporter for the Evening Standard, after talking to her, remarked on this 'spate of frantic inquiries from Germans of real or pretended British origin' [1309].

The Times of 14 August 1940 had a leading article, 'Great-Great-Greats', on the compulsory establishment of 'racial purity' in Germany and the genealogical difficulties that would arise if there were ever a similar requirement to name all one's 32 great-great-great-grandparents in England. The paper’s leader had been prompted by a letter from the barrister L. G. H. Horton-Smith (died 1953) which described the booklets that were needed to record the pedigrees and saying that after some years of research he could only identify 21 of his 32 [1310]. He wondered if the records in England were any less well kept that those in Germany. Anthony Wagner replied that the parochial registration in Germany was and still remained much fuller than that in England and that there had been recent large-scale microphotography of parish registers there [1311]. C. L. Norden then wrote that one in thirteen births in Germany were illegitimate and that a large proportion of the population would thus have difficulty in completing their booklets [1312].

Percival Boyd

Bramwell's conclusions, valid or not, on the frequency of cousin marriages came from a study of the duplication of surnames found in Percival Boyd's marriage index and it should be noted that much of the Society's activity in the period immediately prior to the Second World War undoubtedly owed its success to the industry of Percival Boyd (1866-1955) [1313], MA of Cambridge, chairman and managing director of J. C. Boyd Ltd, of Friday Street, London, merchants and warehousemen, and fifth generation partner in the firm. He had joined the Society in 1922 and had been elected a Fellow in 1926. He was elected to the Executive Committee in 1928 and was its Chairman, 1929-31, when he resigned due to ill health. He served on the Committee again, 1933-49, and was Chairman from the summer of 1938 to that of 1940, being elected a Vice-President in 1944 [1314].

Percival Boyd had a much more progressive attitude about the Society than many of his contemporaries and said that he regarded it and its collections as a sort of laboratory for the use of genealogists, the library providing the tools [1315]. It was a frequent later boast, as he said when elected a Vice-President in 1944, that he was not a genealogist but merely a 'tool-maker', providing the means by which genealogists might work [1316]. In 1938 he initiated a detailed 'Chairman's Page' in the Magazine and in the first one said that he intended to print small specialized sections of the library catalogue where that could be done with little expense [1317],  but, beyond parish registers, marriage licences (listed in the National Index of Parish Registers) and poll books (published as an insert to the March 1939 Magazine) [1318], further lists were not published for many years.

On 18 April 1939 Boyd gave a sherry party at the Society which was open to any member, 'as it would be a good thing for the members to know one another better' [1319]. In the event more than two hundred members and their friends attended and the success of 'Mr Boyd's Sherry Party' was remembered for many years. There was a small exhibition of books organised by the Honorary Librarian, Captain Percy-Smith, to illustrate classes of record that were perhaps overlooked in the larger collections on the Library shelves and at intervals throughout the evening there were six 'two-minute talks' about the document collection, the National Index of Parish Registers, the making of the Marriage Index, the Great Card Index, provincial newspapers and the Society's library [1320].

That same March 1939 Boyd announced as 'an experiment in co-operation' the completion of the first 10,000 unit sheets of his 'Citizens of London', later called the 'Inhabitants of London', the index to which had been placed on the library shelves [1321]. In the event he received very little co-operation and he ended up, over the next fifteen years, writing the vast majority of the 59,389 sheets himself, retaining them at home as he worked on them. By September 1939 he had written 19,500 [1322] and, when Beach Whitmore drew attention to their value in March 1944, there were 38,000 [1323]. By 1948 there were 210 volumes and Boyd was appealing for more unit sheets to be added for the period 1701-1850, blank sheets being freely available from the Society [1324]. In October that year, however, he wrote to Whitmore, ‘My own work is limited to my own house, & owing to age & diminished resources is not as large as it was’ [1325]. He was still working on the unit sheets in December 1954 [1326] but the next February [1327] (just before his death on 17 April 1955) he passed the 238 completed volumes to the Society and his index sheets were bound into a further 27 volumes at a cost of £40, paid for by Professor R. C. Gale [1328]. A large number of annotated books from Boyd's library also passed to the Society. In a tribute to this remarkable man, William Harold Challen (1889-1964) [1329] a great transcriber of the City of London marriage registers, wrote that Boyd was 'always intensely and lucidly interested in any problem. What is every day in use is apt to be taken for granted or undervalued, but constant consultation of his works will never diminish grateful remembrance of his untiring industry, unstinting help, and friendliness' [1330].

Phillimore & Co and Parish Registers

As already described the old firm of Phillimore & Co Ltd founded in 1897 [1331], had in the early days of the twentieth century published a very large number of marriage registers, covering some 1,500 parishes in 238 volumes, but owing to the high cost of printing after the First World War the firm had only produced a very few more, though it owned several hundred manuscript transcripts [1332]. The company's founder, William Phillimore, had no connection with the Society but several of his successors in the firm were involved in the Society. When the firm was incorporated in 1910 one of the shareholders was Thomas Matthews Blagg (1875-1948) [1333] of Newark on Trent, who joined the Society in 1917, and he continued to work on the marriage volumes for many years, becoming a recognised authority on parish registers generally [1334]. In 1914 he revised Phillimore's useful little book Pedigree Work: a handbook for the genealogist (1s 6d) and published a Supplementary Catalogue of the marriage volumes then available for sale (at 10s 6d a volume, except for Yorkshire at 15s).

In 1921 a controlling interest in the firm passed to the genealogist Bower Marsh (1866-1935) who had formerly been an assistant to the document collector and publisher Frederick Arthur Crisp (1851-1921) with whom he had edited a record of the foundation scholars at Charterhouse in 1913. Bower Marsh was later well known as the transcriber and editor of seven volumes of records of the Carpenters’ Company. He died in November 1935 [1335] but shortly before his death in April 1935 he had sold his interest to Charles 'Harold' Ridge (1890-1957) [1336] who was Managing Director until 1951 and who immediately began to publish further registers, the first being volume 26 of the series for Cornwall in an edition limited to 100 copies at 15s 6d each [1337], quickly followed by 80 copies of volume 12 of the Norfolk series [1338]. The energetic Ridge, who had joined the Society in 1929 and was a member of its Executive Committee during the Second World War, also re-issued Bower Marsh's revision of Phillimore's Pedigree Work (1936) and the following year published a Select bibliography of English genealogy (1937) by Howard 'Guy' Harrison (1886-1963) which remains a valuable book in spite of (or perhaps because of) the selective revision published in 1965 [1339] and the highly inaccurate and deficient one published later [1340]. The newly published marriage registers did not sell at all well and it was feared that the series would have to be discontinued. Members of the Society were urged to support the endeavour [1341] and at the end of 1937 owing largely to the support for the Nottinghamshire volumes edited by Thomas Blagg, more were produced [1342]. In 1938 the many unpublished transcripts held by the company were loaned to Percival Boyd for inclusion in his marriage index [1343].

It may be noted here that the well-known professional genealogist Edward Dwelly who had been elected a Fellow in October 1911, died at his home at Fleet, Hampshire, in January 1939, aged 74 [1344]. He had no obituary in the Magazine but although originally a bank clerk in London he had made a name for himself by publishing at Herne Bay five important volumes (the first two with Arthur Jewers) of Bishops’ Transcripts at Wells (1913-19) for parishes where the early registers were lost, and latterly for single-handedly compiling, printing and publishing a Gaelic dictionary of over 1,000 pages including 675 illustrations, for which he was awarded a civil list pension of £50 in 1909 [1345]. Dwelly had also been responsible for publishing, amongst other things, the Somerset subsidy rolls for 1624-74 (1930), and like Sherwood, had put together a miscellaneous index of genealogical material, much of it relating to the West Country, which at his death contained about 900,000 entries. The index was crated up during the War and sent to Bristol University where it remained for many years before being given to the Society in 1988, when it was found that letters A-B and part of C were unfortunately missing [1346].

Parish Register Fees and Access

The fees for personal inspection of parish registers laid down by the 1836 Act and confirmed in 1853 long remained the same (at 1s. for the first year and 6d. for every subsequent year, with 2s. 6d. for a certificate) but in 1938 the Church Commissioners were given powers to increase the fees for access to the baptismal and burial registers. The Commissioners had already, in 1929, empowered the bishops to establish diocesan record offices in which to deposit registers and as a result some libraries, notably (as already mentioned) the Bodleian at Oxford and Gloucester City Library, had been nominated for their receipt. Where registers were deposited in this way the fees were to be shared between the offices and the incumbents but there was a growing unease amongst genealogists that these fees would now escalate.

As a result of the 1938 Measure any individual parish could apply to the Church Commissioners to set a table of fees for the searching of its registers and many thousands of separate orders were made under which two shillings could be charged for the first year of a search and one shilling for each succeeding year, the parishes without such an order remaining at the old (1836) rate. In 1949 the Marriage Act set the fee for searches in marriage registers at one shilling for the first year and six pence a year thereafter and that, of course, applied everywhere [1347], the charge being increased by a Statutory Instrument in 1952 [1348]. These legalities were not widely known or understood and much confusion ensued. Many clergy insisted, contrary to the 1853 ruling, that entries could only be copied on a ‘certificate’ basis, others charged additional fees for unspecified ‘facilities’ provided during the search [1349] and some bizarrely sought to charge search fees from the year of the ‘opening’ or commencement of their first register to the date, perhaps some hundreds of years later, at which a required entry was found. There was also some legal opinion which did not accept that the 1836 Act applied to parish registers in the first place [1350]. The public at large rarely understood that the rates were for personal inspection of the registers; if the application for a search were made by post the incumbent could charge whatever he wished. Personal inspections were permissible ‘at all reasonable times’ but some clergy thought it unreasonable to give time to the dead rather than to the living and were quick to say so. The inspection of a bundle of bishop's transcripts in a diocesan registry might cost anywhere from half a crown to as much as three guineas [1351].

The Ecclesiastical Fees Measure of 1962 standardised the fees for all parishes (with a doubling of those set in 1938; the fees for marriage searches remained the same) and the Local Government (Records) Act the same year allowed local authorities to permit the deposit of registers in their record offices. The situation about fees for general searches remained very unclear though there was provision in the 1929 Measure for fees to be waived when the search was for historical (including genealogical) purposes. In view of the great difference in size of some registers, genealogists now began to think that any fee should depend on the time taken in the search and not on the number of years searched, and that as the registers were 'public records' that no fee should be levied for access to those in local authority offices. The question of fees remained a very sore one until the vast majority of the registers were taken out of the hands of the clergy in the 1970s and 1980s.

Meanwhile the increasing public interest that was being shown in parish registers had greatly reduced the losses in original registers which had been such a deplorable feature of the past. However, the need for more transcription and publication was continually pressed. As Frederick (‘Derek’) George Emmison (1907-1995), the son of a railway telegraphist and then an assistant in Bedford Record Office, wrote in 1931, 'Prohibitive fees, costly journeys from village to village, and lack of expert assistance, demand that our registers be published for the benefit of students' [1352]. He argued that the material obtainable from parish registers might be used to foster an interest in local history and he urged the complete publication of these 'records of the people' as an object worthy of the assistance of local authorities. In 1934, with the assistance of Bedfordshire County Council he commenced the publication of the parish registers of Bedfordshire prior to 1837, checking the entries against the surviving bishops transcripts, a task that he saw completed only in 1992. It was the first county to see all its registers in print and I was particularly pleased to be at Bedford with Derek Emmison to see the last volume launched in April that year [1353].

In a note about the needs of the Society which appeared in the Magazine in December 1934 it was said that the bishops of Chelmsford, Ely and Norwich had given permission to their incumbents to lend their parish registers to approved applicants so that they might copy them at home. Applications were to be made to Charles F. D. Sperling, FSA (1861-1938), of Ballingdon Hall, Sudbury, Suffolk [1354]. The number of transcriptions was now increasing steadily and in the late 1930s and early 1940s it became the custom to send typescript and manuscript copies to the British Library where the names of transcribers such as Colonel Frank Wall (1868-1950) in Kent, Oswald Greenwaye Knapp (1859-1947) in Dorset, and the Revd Richard Grosvenor Bartelot (1868-1947) also in Dorset, regularly appear in the British Library catalogue. Bartelot loaned a collection of 96 Dorset transcripts to the Society for re-copying in 1937 [1355]. The work of William Harold Challen in the transcription of London registers at this time has already been mentioned.

Kendall Percy-Smith, Honorary Librarian, 1938

Kathleen Blomfield had known Kendall Percy-Smith (1897-1975) [1356] for some years before he joined the Society in 1936 and became so active in its affairs. His will, dated in April 1965, speaks of ‘many kindnesses received by me over nearly forty years, from her, her late husband Dr Joseph Blomfield and their families’. Kendall had been born at Tong in Shropshire the son of a chartered accountant, Horace Percy Smith (died 1928) [1357], who abandoned his own wife and children to take his brother’s children to Hong Kong [1358], but subsequently returned to England. Kendall, educated at Shrewsbury and the Royal Military College, was gazetted to the 14th Punjab Regiment and served in Turkey and Mesopotamia before being posted to India in 1919. There he developed a great interest in the families and biographies of those who had served with the Honorable East India Company, but whilst still a Captain he had retired from the regular army and by 1922 had returned to live at Eardley Crescent, Earls Court where he remained until 1935, moving then to Maida Vale and then to Fordwych Road, Kilburn, where he was when he joined the Society in December 1936. Whilst in the East he had made an unhappy marriage and his wife, Alice Sophia (died 1946), who had come to live at Streatham, divorced him in 1935 [1359]. He was generally known as Hubert ‘Kendall’ Percy-Smith but he appeared in the 1901 census as Herbert Kendall David Percy Smith [1360].

As mentioned Percy-Smith became a member of the Magazine’s editorial team and was appointed Honorary Librarian in the autumn of 1938 when Cregoe Nicholson was unable to continue owing to the pressure of business. Percy-Smith was fortunately able to ‘devote practically all his time to the library’ making considerable improvements in its arrangements and he had made an immediate impact by spending £173 on the acquisition of directories and poll books and in the completion of various runs of books [1361]. Various collections were also received. Ethel Fry gave a great number of books and papers that had belonged to her father George Samuel Fry who died in July; the executors of Leoline Griffiths gave his books and papers; those of Frederick Montague Farrar also gave a valuable collection of books; Florence Hankin, the widow of the playright and essayist St John Hankin (and a daughter of George Routledge the publisher) gave twenty volumes of cuttings of births, marriages, deaths and obituaries from The Times to go with the Index of Deaths 1894-1931 already held; Harry Pitman gave fifty very valuable poll books; and Mrs Bird, the widow of W. H. Benbow Bird, gave her late husband’s papers for sorting by George Sherwood [1362]. Percy-Smith prepared the little exhibition at Mr Boyd’s Sherry Party in 1939 but immediately after joining he worked with Kathleen Blomfield on the catalogue of the Society’s collection of parish registers.

Catalogue and National Index of Parish Registers, 1937

A catalogue of the Society's growing collection had, as mentioned above, been published at the cost of Percival Boyd in 1924, but at the end of 1936 it was announced that a new edition was in preparation and that copies would be 3s 6d to those who subscribed in advance [1363]. The much revised second edition of the Catalogue of Parish Register Copies in the Possession of the Society of Genealogists was produced by Kathleen Blomfield and Kendall Percy-Smith in June 1937 and listed the three thousand five hundred transcripts then held. Although at the end of the year it was said that ‘it is clear that the sale of this will cover the cost of printing very shortly’ and that it was anticipated that a profit would eventually be made [1364], the book sold very slowly indeed, being remaindered some twenty-three years later [1365]. However, the couple appealed in its preface for information about further transcripts of registers that might be held by other organisations or in private possession, saying that they would also publish a list of these, no such list having been printed since those produced by George Marshall and Arthur Burke prior to the foundation of the Society.

In furtherance of this work, on Monday, 21 February 1938, a letter under Mrs Blomfield's name appeared in The Times in which she appealed for information about transcripts of registers held privately or by other organisations so that a 'national index' showing their location could be published. The Times gave warm support to the idea in a lengthy Leading Article published the same day [1366]. Both made the important point that such a list would help to prevent duplication of effort in the future. The resulting correspondence pleasingly revealed that there was a desire by many incumbents to have transcripts made of their registers and some even offered to send them to the Society for that purpose. About eighty people came forward to offer help with the copying of both originals and copies. As a result copies relating to some 106 parishes were placed on the shelves that year [1367].

The Society's Executive Committee had no prior notice of Mrs Blomfield's letter to The Times but a month later she put a memorandum before the Committee proposing the formation of two committees, a powerful one of influential people to make an appeal for funds for register transcription and a small sub-committee to organise the work. She mentioned that Captain Percy-Smith was already working several hours a day on the various lists of existing transcripts, the College of Arms had agreed to its copies being included and public libraries would need to be circulated. She suggested that in view of the number of Americans interested in 16th and 17th century registers that an appeal be made to the Pilgrim Trust for a grant, that the businessman and philanthropist, Lord Wakefield (1859-1941), be approached about the City of London registers, and perhaps the motor magnate and philanthropist Lord Nuffield (1877-1963) about those in Oxfordshire. She said that the local parish register societies and the various archaeological societies would all need to be involved [1368], There is little doubt that Percy-Smith was the organising force behind these ideas.

The Executive Committee agreed to set up a sub-committee consisting of Alfred Trego Butler (1880-1946) then Windsor Herald, Eric Geijer (1894-1941) then Rouge Dragon Pursuivant [1369], and Captain Percy-Smith, with Percival Boyd as chairman. They were to consider the compilation of what became the National Index of Parish Register Copies and to deal with the offered loans of registers, £25 being authorised to pay for the making of copies of transcripts [1370]. In May, Boyd reported on a visit by Sir Josiah Stamp (later Lord Stamp), a trustee of the Pilgrim Trust and a member of the Society since 1931, and said that a formal application to the Trust for funds with which to copy registers was being prepared by Mrs Blomfield. Meanwhile Captain Percy-Smith was, he said, busily working on the Index but clerical assistance would be required 'if the work was to proceed at all quickly' [1371].

By June 1938 letters of enquiry had been sent to all the public libraries and archaeological and record societies about transcripts in their possession [1372] and it was found that one society alone had 450 transcripts in manuscript. Percival Boyd, about to become Chairman of the Executive Committee, told the Annual Meeting in July that the aim was to get the un-copied registers copied but the best thing would be for the copying to be done locally [1373]. Later that month he was able to tell the Executive that the Society had received a grant of £300 from the Pilgrim Trust towards the cost of preparing and printing the index. Kathleen Blomfield noted that his announcement was greeted with applause. She was then formally made a member of the sub-committee [1374].

Although the receipt of the £300 was mentioned in the Society's Annual Report for 1938 [1375] the money had, for reasons which have never been fully explained, been put in a special account and although in the name of the Society, it did not appear in the Society's audited accounts, the auditors later saying that they had been told by Mrs Blomfield that the account had 'nothing to do with the Society' [1376]. The National Index of Parish Registers eventually appeared in late September 1939, having taken much longer to compile than was expected owing to its size [1377] and it had then been delayed at the printers by 'urgent government work' [1378]. The title page said that it was 'compiled for The Society of Genealogists by Kathleen Blomfield and H. K. Percy-Smith'. One thousand copies were printed at a cost of £56-3-10 and they sold for 3s 6d each. The 'Index' listed over four thousand transcripts outside the Society's library, the slip writing being the work of Kendall Percy-Smith. The Annual Report noted sadly that, ‘Whilst it was a most unfortunate moment for any book to appear, a certain amount of support has been forthcoming from Public Libraries and other institutions, but the number of copies sold to Members has been surprisingly few’ [1379].

By late 1938 Percival Boyd was able to list the names of some 85 people, not all members, who were actively engaged in copying registers for the Society [1380] and in February 1939 a three-page spread in the magazine Picture Post gave some excellent publicity to their work and that of the Society in general, showing the remarkable baptismal register of Ware in Hertfordshire which in the 1790s has as many as 1,200 entries across one opening [1381]. In the summer of 1939 Kathleen Blomfield used the publication of the National Index to gain further publicity for the campaign to involve people in the transcription of registers and, following an interview with the Evening Standard, successfully obtained notice in several local newspapers [1382]. She said that some registers 'have been found in dustbins, others on rubbish heaps and in second-hand book shops' and that teachers, governesses and retired Civil Servants all over the country were becoming amateur genealogists in their spare time, taking part in a nationwide campaign to copy the registers before 1837.

The ultimate aim was to make two or three typescript copies of each register. The member Frederic Vaughan Cowell (1881-1955), a London accountant who had joined in 1939, had been transcribing registers at a rate of 300 pages a week for several months [1383] and was paid a special tribute in 1941, having written 1,000 pages [1384]. Writing about the destruction of records during the War, Mrs Blomfield said that the register found on a rubbish heap had been collected from the stables of an outgoing incumbent and was being burned by his gardener [1385]. One major coup of her campaign was when a woman brought in a register from Filey in Yorkshire dating from 1573 that she had found amongst her family papers. How it came there she did not know or was not willing to divulge but it had been missing from the church ‘for many generations’ and to salve the family conscience, as The News Chronicle said, she became a member of the Society which repaired the register (at a cost of £4-10-0) and returned it to Yorkshire [1386].

At the Annual Meeting in July 1939 Captain Percy-Smith said that copies of registers were coming into the Society at a rate of five a week and that almost 500 had been received since the letter in The Times. Percival Boyd said that Mrs Blomfield had worked in her own time almost night and day on the National Index and that Captain Percy-Smith was putting in almost as much time as any member of the paid staff [1387].

In August 1939, however, David Ensign Gardner (1915-2007), a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints then living in Liverpool, later to become well known for his books on genealogical research, wrote to the Liverpool Post expressing concern at the slow progress of transcription and, with the danger of air attack being discussed, stressing the urgent need for the micro-filming of registers. He wrote that 'several thousand folios can be recorded in a day'. The films could then be preserved, he said, until such time as a more leisurely transcription could be made, either from the originals (if they survived) or from the projected film [1388]. The previous year the possibilities of the new technology had been praised in a circular to members of Gardner's church by Archibald Bennett, the Secretary of the Genealogical Society of Utah and, with the 'world trembling on the brink of wholesale war', an approach was made through University Microfilms to film the registers of the Isle of Man. This, however, was rejected because the ministers there feared the loss of income from people who came to the parishes to do their own research, and the registers there were not filmed until 1950 [1389]. In England, Hugh B. Brown, President of the British Mission, wrote to all 43 diocesan bishops of the Church of England asking for permission to approach the parish priests within their jurisdictions and reported that although he had received outright permission from some, 'provisional permission by others, and curt refusals from still others', the majority of bishops were favourable to the idea. In the event, however, in Europe most filming by the Latter-day Saints had to wait until after the War [1390].

Unfortunately, on the outbreak of War in September 1939, Kathleen Blomfield's stalwart supporter, Captain Percy-Smith of the 14th Punjab Regiment, was recalled to service and once more sent to India. He was an indefatigable indexer of magazines and parish registers and a characteristic letter from him written on the day that War was declared, continued the following day 'en route for India', asked for 15,000 indexing slips to be sent to meet him at Bombay so that he could finish indexing the June 1939 Magazine and complete the West Bromwich parish registers! [1391]. Mrs Blomfield was not so keen and, wary of the considerable cost involved and the fact that even blank paper had to be declared for customs, she suggested he try to obtain them in India and debit the Society [1392].

With the outbreak of the War, however, Kathleen Blomfield began to think about the possibilities of microfilming parish registers and started a vigorous promotion of this important pioneering project. Marc Fitch (1908-1994) gave £100 to forward the work of copying or filming in June 1940 [1393] and the Pilgrim Trust gave £500, adding a further £500 in 1941. These amounts were also paid into the special bank account [1394]. After an item about the filming appeared in the Amateur Photographer some of its readers offered help and placed their cameras and services at the Society's disposal. Mrs Blomfield hoped that if sufficient volunteers came forward it would be possible to carry out the work locally with the aid of the record societies [1395].

In September 1940 the Magazine mentioned that the Society had been offered the loan of a microfilm projector and an appeal was then made for someone to transcribe from it a few of the shorter registers which had been filmed. Some churches had been bombed and registers destroyed but other registers were being sent by post to London and could be filmed within 48 hours or whilst the messengers waited [1396]. It was said that a country parish could be filmed for twenty-five shilling, but that a London one might cost from fifty to a hundred pounds [1397]. In an article about the library at this time Bethell Bouwens, who had replaced Percy-Smith as Honorary Librarian, remarked that the reduced office staff should not be bothered with queries as it was 'now usually busy on parish register work' [1398].

In March 1941 the Chairman of the Executive Committee prematurely reported that the 'sub-committee on parish register copying having completed its task is now dissolved' but that the 'Provisional Committee which was looking after micro-filming parish registers continued' [1399]. This is the first mention of a Provisional Committee, no record of its appointment having appeared in the Society's minutes. However, the Executive Committee agreed that the Society 'supports the work and is willing for the scheme to continue to be organized from its premises under the patronage of the Society' [1400].

Kathleen Blomfield, who had been elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, was quick to attempt to explain the position in the March Magazine. She wrote that, "Following the publication of the National Index of Parish Register Copies, it was the intention to form an Association to deal exclusively with parish registers, their preservation, duplication, printing, etc., the Council of which was to be composed of people in touch with the various Parish Register and Record Societies having an interest in this subject. Unfortunately, the war began before the Association could be formed, and although many distinguished people had expressed their willingness to serve on the Council of such a body, the general opinion was the moment was not propitious to launch a new enterprise. The position then was that parish registers might be destroyed by enemy action without any copy having been taken unless members of the Committee originally concerned with the production of the National Index of Parish Register Copies undertook the work of getting parish registers micro-filmed and the information they contain thus safeguarded" [1401]. Quite whose intention it had been to form such an Association is not clear, but one must assume from later developments that it was the joint idea of Kathleen Blomfield and Kendall Percy-Smith. Meanwhile the Provisional Committee soon became the 'Committee for Microfilming Parish Registers' [1402]. Quite why Kathleen Blomfield opened a separate bank account for the funds is not known. At a time when the Society's funds were in a precarious state she perhaps wanted to ring-fence the money obtained for filming and transcribing and, sensing some opposition to her ambitious scheme, she may have wished to place her enterprise beyond the interference of the Society's committees.

In her article she said that the microphotography scheme had the 'benevolent support' of the Society but that the Society had no interest in the films beyond sometimes being their temporary custodian when other arrangements could not be made. She stressed that all the organization and office work had been done voluntarily and she paid tribute to the generous help of the research assistant, Freda Podmore, who since September 1940 had been closely involved. Prior to that date the filming had been carried out in a studio in London, any registers kept overnight being housed for safety in the neighbouring National Central Library through the courtesy of its Librarian, Colonel Luxmoore Newcombe (1880-1952), but with the constant air attacks in London from September onwards filming centres had been set up with the cooperation of local record offices outside London. Some clergy had even allowed their vestries to be used for filming, collecting registers from neighbouring parishes and offering hospitality to the operators. The registers of about a thousand parishes had thus been filmed.

Mrs Blomfield stressed again that the Society would not have access to the films so that there would not be any loss of fee income to the parishes. The Society did not even have a projector and, in any case, to make typescript copies of a large number of registers would 'need many experts' and several projectors. Copies could, however, be made free of charge, at the request of the incumbent, though 'it is not expected that they can be provided (except in the case of registers which are destroyed in the meantime) until after the war'. She added that, 'Although it would then be desirable to provide typescript copies for those who wish for them, here again the project is one which must be undertaken by the Association when formed, and not by the Society'. She would be haunted by this rash promise for the next forty-eight years.

In September 1941 Kathleen Blomfield mentioned in an obituary of Lord Stamp that he had presided over short informal meetings of the Provisional Committee and again said that the registers of over a thousand parishes had been filmed [1403], some 64 transcripts having come into the Library in the last six months [1404]. In April 1942 she reported that she had secured the services of two juniors - one for the office and one for microfilm work at a pound a week each [1405]. Concerned at the legal validity of microfilm copies of parish registers if the originals were destroyed, she was also pleased to note that in March 1942 an infra-red photograph of a brittle will which had been charred by enemy action had been admitted to probate by the President of the Probate Division [1406].

That year the Committee for Microfilming obtained the patronage of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and its membership was strengthened by the addition of Charles (later Sir Charles) Travis Clay, Librarian at the House of Lords, Canon Alan Campbell Don and Prebendary Christopher Cheshire. Even Cregoe Nicholson, who disliked Kathleen Blomfield and was an early critic of the scheme, was impressed at the Committee's 'National character' [1407]. When in 1943 the Pilgrim Trust gave a further £500 it was entered in the Books of the Trust as being paid to the Provisional Committee [1408].

Mrs Blomfield gave a report on the Committee's work in the March 1943 issue of the Magazine, saying that half a million pages of registers had been filmed. In London Messrs Lever Brothers and Unilevers Ltd had placed an apparatus and operator at the Committee's disposal for the filming of London registers and eleven parishes had been completed, including St Andrew Holborn and St Margaret Westminster. About 1,500 parishes altogether had been filmed. She made a point of saying that the child had outgrown its parent, for the Committee 'is quite independent of the Society except that it gratefully accepts office space at Chaucer House for its secretarial work'. That the Society also paid her salary was not mentioned. The Committee was using a portable Graflex camera which, loaded with a hundred feet of film, could photograph about 1,600 pages, the exposures being automatically controlled by a foot pedal. About two to three hundred pages could be photographed in an hour. Anything not in good condition was excluded from the scheme. Mrs Blomfield wrote that the Committee would arrange for the camera operator to go anywhere in England provided that not less than 5,000 pages were available to film at the chosen centre. No register was being filmed beyond 1812 [1409].

In May 1943 it was reported that the sixty-five Kent parish registers transcribed by Sir Thomas Colyer-Fergusson (1865-1951) had been loaned for re-copying [1410] and the following year the Society's recommendations for the copying of registers (with an approved list of abbreviations) were, for the first time, published in the Magazine. In spite of the shortage of paper, ruled sheets for the first rough transcript were being supplied by the Society [1411]. Some people were particularly busy on the Society's behalf and Mr A. C. Glynn Grylls an instructor in languages at the Royal Naval Engineering College Devonport, who had transcribed the registers of eight Cornish parishes, went to Launceston in March 1943 to explore further possibilities in that area, distressed at the number of churches being blitzed and registers damaged. Known as the relative of a prominent solicitor at Launceston he attracted useful publicity for the Society in the local press [1412].

Second World War

When the National Emergency was declared in September 1939 the Society's opening hours (which had been 10 am to 6 pm, Monday to Saturday) were restricted to 5 pm on weekdays and to 1 pm on Saturdays and Mrs Blomfield wrote to The Times saying that the continuation of normal activities and recreations should be maintained as far as possible and that the Society’s facilities for borrowing books would be extended [1413]. She wrote in the Society’s Annual Report that attendance of members at the rooms since September had varied little in numbers compared with normal times and that this indicated that the decision to keep the services available as far as possible ‘was a wise one’ [1414]. However, in December 1939 it was announced that the remainder of the lecture programme had been abandoned owing to the difficulties of restricted travelling and from 18 November, when daylight saving ended, the rooms were opened from 9.30 am to 4 pm and to 1 pm on Saturdays, the whole building being closed at that time due to the depletion of staff on war service. The number of books that could be borrowed was increased from two to four, the period of loan being increased from one to two weeks [1415], but the rule had reverted by March 1942 when those offenders who detained books longer received a severe rebuke from a stern Mrs Blomfield [1416]. A detailed list of what could not be borrowed unless there were duplicate copies had been drawn up in January 1939 [1417].

In December 1939 some of the members engaged in ARP work, particularly on switchboards, were already using the long intervals between calls in indexing for the Society [1418] and a year later Mrs Blomfield appealed to bored ARP wardens 'in their dug-outs' to help sort a considerable collection of will abstracts [1419]. In May 1940 when the Annual Report for 1939 was written she complained that the staff had been ‘working under considerable pressure and during the cold weather when the heating proved quite inadequate, discomfort. It is to be hoped’, she wrote, ‘that these special conditions will not last long or occur again’ [1420] but the Annual Report for 1940 again said ‘the winter has been unpleasant because the heating has been most inadequate’, though otherwise the daily routine of the Society had suffered very little. As for the world situation Sherwood, who was doing a little research for Percy-Smith, wrote to him in India that August, ‘we have our tails well up, and think we shall conquer the beast, once again. It seems worse to you, far away, than it does to us at home, I daresay’ [1421].

And so when 'Summer Time' commenced in 1940 it was possible to return to normal hours including Saturday afternoons, but only two lectures were then held [1422], with tea provided, though members who took sugar were asked to provide their own [1423]. Indeed Kathleen Blomfield does not seem to have waivered in her view that the rooms should be kept open at all costs, even when in September 1940, some of the windows were blown in with consequent ‘small damage’. She wrote in the Annual Report that the Executive Committee had considered the matter but that it would not be possible to put away any particular section of the library considered specially valuable to a safe place, if such could be found, and she urged members to continue their support of the Society, for if it ‘were allowed to decline it would take many years of hard work to build it up again’ [1424].

However, in the winter of 1940 the opening hours were again restricted, the rooms closing half an hour before the official 'black-out' times, Saturdays included. If the closing was obliged to be earlier than 4 pm the rooms did not open at all on Saturdays [1425]. There were iron gates at the end of Malet Place and under the Defence Regulations members had to show their Identity Cards at the gates [1426]. In March 1941 it was said that attendance at the library had been sparse throughout the winter but the rooms were then opened until 5.30 [1427]. In the winter months of 1942 the rooms were again closed about an hour before 'black-out' [1428] and this then remained the practice until the end of the War.

In 1941 monthly lectures were held in the spring and summer and advertised in the 'Personal' column of The Times (a practice that continued throughout the War), members being asked to notify the Society in advance 'to allow for accurate catering' [1429]. Members were asked to bring friends, as the few lectures that were organised were not well attended. Attendance was ‘very poor’ in 1945 [1430] and this complaint was still heard in June 1946 when tea was dispensed with because of the rationing of milk, bread and cakes. It cannot have helped that owing to the extreme shortage and rationing of paper no separate lecture syllabus was sent out and that until September 1947, when the provision of tea was still doubtful, the members had to rely on the twice-yearly Magazine for information [1431].

Bethell Bouwens in the Library

As we have seen the Honorary Librarian, Kendall Percy-Smith, had been recalled to serve in the Indian Army in September 1939 and Bethell Bouwens, a member since 1918 who had recently moved to London, kindly offered to carry on his work. Bethell Godefroy Bouwens (1884-1942), a retired motor engineer, of Dutch ancestry, was also Chairman of the Executive Committee in 1940-41. In March 1940 he had succeeded Byrom Bramwell as joint-editor of the Magazine with William Gun and they worked together until March 1942. Bouwens’s only sister Hyacinth (1890-1968), subsequently Lady Walsingham, had been a Fellow since 1912 [1433]. His remarkable family history, A thousand ancestors (1935), in which he attempted to trace all the lines of his ancestry for ten generations, had been followed by the valuably detailed Wills and their whereabouts (1939) copies of which he (and subsequently his son Derek) generously donated to the Society for sale to benefit the Library Fund [1434]. Bouwens' books had been printed photographically from his own handwriting in a 'Replika' process and that distinctive black writing was soon to be found on large numbers of the cards in the Library Catalogue, for, despite considerable ill health he was an extremely active man. The Annual Report says that he made a ‘material improvement to the card catalogue’ and it was he who was responsible for bringing all the printed tracts on families together and binding them in a series of volumes in distinctive canary cloth [1435] thus undoubtedly saving many from loss or theft, as well as introducing the first card catalogue of the periodicals.

There was also a considerable accumulation of books needing to be accessioned [1436]. Of the 1,000 books accessed in 1939, sixty-three had been received for review, but large donations of books had also come from the executors of Captain James M. C. Gibbon, of Abberton Hall, Pershore, who died that year and of Leoline Griffith who had died in 1938 [1437]. In addition Bouwens, who Sherwood told Percy-Smith was ‘devoted to the library’ [1438], made various changes in the library, removing the volumes of visitations, wills and marriage licences from the county shelves and placing them in separate groups, still in county order. He intended to do the same with the poll books and directories but this never happened. Although apparently planned by Percy-Smith it was not an altogether satisfactory arrangement. Searchers working on the county shelves frequently overlooked the additional volumes and after Lawson Edwards retired we returned many of them (except those that covered a whole diocese or more than one county) to their original places. Bouwens also took the folio books, mostly county histories, which did not fit on the county shelves and placed them together, at that time in the central aisle [1439].

At the Annual Meeting in July 1940 Bouwens said that the number of books received in the Library in the last six months had almost equalled that in the previous six years (‘as people die or reduce their establishments’ as Sherwood said [1440]) and he was anxious to fill the gaps in many of the periodicals that he had been cataloguing, a subject that he reverted to in March 1941 when he published in the Magazine a long list of missing journals [1441]. In September 1940 he had printed there a fairly detailed explanation of the arrangement of the library, adding that he was usually present from noon onwards. As a joint-editor of the Magazine, he appealed in vain for further correspondence [1442] and later expressed his dissatisfaction with the journal as it then stood, though suggestions for its improvement (other than to print outline pedigrees taken from the document collections) were not forthcoming [1443].

Lord Stamp, President, 1940

The Society's third President, the ‘excellent’ Lord Farrer (as Sherwood called him) [1444], who had taken a very active part in the Society's affairs and had attended its meetings regularly, died at Abinger Hall, Dorking, on 12 April 1940, aged 80. At the Annual Meeting in July the former Sir Josiah Stamp, who had been so helpful with the funding of the National Index of Parish Registers and had been created Baron Stamp in 1938, was elected President in his stead. Lord Stamp's father had been the manager of a railway bookstall at Wigan and he himself had entered the Inland Revenue Department as a boy clerk in 1896. He became an eminent statistician and administrator and was one of the original trustees of the Pilgrim Trust and, in 1936, President of the British Association. Not himself a university man, he received 23 honorary degrees. He had been a member for some years but sadly after less than a year as President he was tragically killed with Lady Stamp and their eldest son Wilfrid, in the shelter of their home in an air raid on 16 April 1941, just a few days before the Society’s Annual Meeting on 24 April [1445].

George Sherwood

George Sherwood had continued to maintain his office at 227 The Strand until at least September 1917 but had moved to another small office at 210 The Strand (near the Savoy on the other side of the Aldwych) by August 1919 [1446] and he advertised in the Magazine into the 1930s, mentioning his indexes, selling small indexes of records, transcripts of registers and typed notes of lawsuits, wills and deeds [1447], and charging about £1 for each one hundred sheets. In 1930 he had written, 'The fixed plan of nearly forty years work amongst the records has been the discovery of fresh material and the systematic typing out and filing of matter already in hand. It is progressively acquisitive and exploratory, never at a standstill, and in that we find our sustained interest and pleasure' [1448]. In 1931-2 he acquired, for instance, a collection of 250 original marriage licences, 1750-1850, from Southwark which he offered at £2 each and a collection of 250 engraved portraits from James Granger's Biographical History of England (1769) which were £12-10-0 each.

Sherwood had a considerable knowledge of the problems of tracing the origins of early emigrants to America and in 1932 he also published the '1st Series' of his American Colonists in English Records: a guide to direct references in authentic records, passenger lists, &c, quickly following this with a '2nd Series' a year later, but his projected '3rd Series' never appeared [1449].

In 1934 he said that his general index, which rivalled that of the Society and probably contained about two million slips, was valued at £1,000 for insurance purposes. It filled six six-foot bookcases and had a large overflow [1450]. By December 1935 he had acquired a collection of about four thousand letters on genealogical, heraldic and ceremonial topics addressed to Sir William Betham, Ulster King of Arms, in the years 1810-30, and he published a catalogue of them the following year. The intention was to sell the letters individually but the venture was a failure and he sold the great bulk to the National Library of Ireland during the War. The subject of the letters was not entirely genealogical and there is one catalogued, 'Anonymous (signed William Betham) to Walter Cox, bookseller, Dublin, Oct. 1815, as to O'Donnell pedigree and wife beating - 15s' [1451]. The Betham catalogue mentions his earlier work sorting the Clayton deeds and papers prior to their sale and the cataloguing of the deeds, letters and papers of Sir Mark Sykes, Sir Henry Jerningham, Sir William Lawrence Young and the Pownall Hall deeds of his client Henry Boddington.

Sherwood moved from 210 The Strand about the end of 1935 and worked until June 1937 from Phillimore's rooms at 120 Chancery Lane [1452]. However, by December 1937 he had given up his London base and was working entirely from home, now at 48 Beecroft Road, Brockley (to which the family had moved in 1933), advertising that he undertook research as well as the compilation and verification of pedigrees, particularly those dealing with the middle classes [1453]. His name appears on the Society's first list of recommended searchers in the advertisement pages of the Magazine in March 1939.

Sherwood was married three times. His first wife, Alice Mary Hutchinson, whom he had married in 1887, sadly died the following year aged 23 and he married secondly at Fulham in 1889 after a six-month courtship, Sophia Mary Floyd Gibbs, five years older than himself and the daughter of a stonemason, by whom he had four daughters and one son. He observed in 1911 that ‘most people marry near their own class … it is distinctly uncomfortable to marry far out of it’, saying that, ‘The old rule was for men to move a step up by marriage; women a step down’ [1454]. Surviving letters from Sherwood to 'Sophie' in their early years of marriage give an idea of their hand-to-mouth existence as he travelled around the country looking at records for his clients, uncertain when, or indeed if, they would pay him for his work [1455]. George's only son, Ralph Tudor Sherwood, who had been born in 1891 and in 1911 was assisting his father in the business, served in the First World War but unfortunately died in late 1927, just a few months after his mother Sophia who was sixty-four.

George then married thirdly at the age of 62 in October 1929, May Ethel Trinder (1891-1975), who had worked for some years as secretary to his old genealogical friend the Revd Ernest Salisbury Butler Whitfield (1872-1943) when Curate of St Andrew, Holborn. Whitfield, who also lived at Brockley, had joined the Society in 1912 when Vicar of St Luke, Deptford, and was later a member of the Executive Committee and Librarian, 1926-30. May Trinder had been born at Deptford, the daughter of the Official Coal Meter at the Coal Exchange. She charmingly appears in the 1911 census as a ‘Lady Secretary’. In 1922 she made an unhappy and childless marriage to Harry McIntyre whom she divorced in 1926 [1456] but meanwhile late in 1925 she had become a member of the Society [1457]. She must at some stage have let her membership lapse for she joined again after her marriage to Sherwood in 1929. She and George Sherwood had two sons, John in 1930 and George in 1932. Her stepdaughters, who lived with them for a while and with whom she was good friends, were, of course, almost the same age as herself. I remember one of them, Barbara I think, coming to see her at the Society. May always seemed much in awe of ‘Mr Sherwood’, as she referred to her husband, but as will be seen, was a great support to him in his later years. It would have amused him to recall reading in 1916 some statistics that proved that it was ‘impossible for anyone born within a century of his great-grandfather’s birth to become a distinguished man’ [1458]. It was said that a child of a man of 60 has more than fifty-one times as good a chance of becoming eminent as the child of a man under 24. Sherwood had commented then, ‘The recipe is not to marry early and to marry often but to marry late and the later the better’ [1459].

May Sherwood used to tell stories of how the two boys were brought into their father’s office at tea-time and stood on his desk for inspection. Not surprisingly, they took little or no interest in their father’s work. He was completely immersed in his indexing, typing and filing, the large book cases with their box files and parcels arranged around him. He used silver paper to make the parcels more attractive and if the heavy parchment deeds were too intractable he would jump up and down on them so that they could more easily be filed. He was not averse either to cutting the seals off late documents that he considered of little importance so that they too could be easily ‘enveloped’. Money was always short and one day, May recalled, she found him in the bathroom attempting to wash out a typewriter ribbon so that it could be used as tape. String cost money and there were little drawers in his office labelled with various lengths, the last with the words, ‘String too short to be of any use’.

Their marriage was certainly not an easy one financially and May Sherwood always advised me against thinking of genealogy as any form of career. Early in 1940 George Sherwood put out a little leaflet setting out his Credentials [1460] and aimed at raising some work, but May used to say that he received no commissions at all throughout the duration of the War. At the end of that year he wrote to Beach Whitmore from Brockley worrying about the effect of the bombing in the City, but he had been busy at home putting in order some 13,584 slips of marriages from an incomplete run of The Monthly Magazine, 1796-1825, which he valued ‘for ordinary middle-class people’ because his own great-grandparents on both sides appeared in it, one at Canterbury and the other at Oxford. However severe the bombings, he optimistically wrote, there would still be ‘plenty of material to work upon’ [1461].

Without Sherwood at the Society in the early War years, Bethell Bouwens took on the task of sorting some of the manuscript material that was received. Bouwens was appalled at its quality, writing in the Magazine under the heading 'Memento Mori', that it was 'dreadful to review the waste of effort' and 'a saddening business' attempting to reduce the collections into order. He thought that 'the more distinguished the worker the scrappier and more disorderly' were his 'literary remains', some being 'wholly chaotic and unintelligible' [1462]. It was a point that came up many years later when I told the then Chairman, Robert Garrett that the money spent on sorting dud collections might perhaps be better spent on purchasing worthwhile ones [1463].

Realising the possible risks arising from air warfare, the possible evacuation, dispersal and duplication of records was much discussed by London archivists in the early days of the 'phoney' war in 1939-40 and some 90,000 large packages weighing two thousand tons were dispersed from the Public Record Office to seven different regions of the country. They went to a prison at Shepton Mallet, a poor law institution at Market Harborough, to Belvoir Castle, and to various private houses, and yet every record remained available for official use and, from November 1939 onwards the Search Room with the 1841 and 1851 census returns remained open and some street indexes to the larger towns were compiled by the staff. Shelter in the safer parts of the building was then given to other vulnerable records such as those from Lambeth Palace and from some City Companies. There were, of course, many incendiary attacks and some twenty-three fell on the Chancery Lane building in one night in 1941-2. The records were not always safe in their new homes and although none were destroyed by bombing, some suffered from damp and mildew. In London there was much damage to papers stored in basements from mains and sewers broken by high explosive bombs and the Chancery Lane Safe Deposit was flooded with sewage that could not then escape through the solid concrete walls. At Exeter, although twenty-five tons of books and records had been removed from the City Library and saved, the Probate Registry was completely destroyed. Only then, following the intervention of Ethel Stokes the Secretary of the Records Preservation Section of the British Records Association, did the President of the Probate Division order a systematic dispersal, evacuation, and interchange of records in the remaining Probate Registries [1464].

By March 1940 the Society's document collection, arranged by surnames and places, filled 663 heavy box files [1465], but whilst Chairman in 1940-41, Bethell Bouwens put on permanent loan with various local repositories most of the original deeds from the 'places' section, on condition that they were available to members and that abstracts would be prepared for the Society's use [1466]. Their extent may be seen in that the Society then offered for sale about 300 box files that had contained them [1467]. Many schedules of these documents were returned to the Society but in one county some documents found their way into private hands and were offered for sale, much exercising Mrs Blomfield who was obliged to involve the Society's solicitor. After Bouwens became unwell she wrote grumblingly to Kendall Percy-Smith in India that 'the acting Hon Librarian who was at that time also Chairman ... took over the disposal of these things although they were rightly Mr Sherwood's province' [1468].

The whole of the nearby Maples furniture store between Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street was destroyed by bombing on 16-17 April 1941 [1469] and the question of removing some of the Society's irreplaceable documents and records to a place of safety was again discussed at the Annual Meeting a few days later on 24 April, but the general wish of those members attending was that the collections should be kept intact as a working library in London 'but that if advisable part of its collections might be sent to a place of greater safety' [1470].

Only a few days later, in the terrible raids on the night of Wednesday, 10 May 1941, the library had a very lucky escape. A correspondent to the Society of Australian Genealogists who had been on fire-duty that night described Chaucer House as 'a mass of flames, from floor to roof, an incredible inferno', but went back the next day to find that the building, 'soaked in water from hoses and the burst pipes, and filled with the dust and grime of such an occasion, with windows broken by high explosive and the heat of the fire', had in fact been saved and that Mrs Blomfield (who had lived since her second marriage in St Andrew’s Mansions, Dorset Street, off Baker Street) [1471] was there with the cleaners, nothing having been damaged [1472]. She herself played the incident down and wrote that it would be well to stress, 'especially for our overseas readers, that no material damage was suffered to Chaucer House itself. Some highly coloured reports of flames licking up the lift well, etc., seem to have been circulated, but that is sheer nonsense. A certain amount of water entered the building from leaking hoses, etc., playing on adjacent premises; but the fact that the library was only closed for a couple of days, and only then in order to remove broken glass and dirt which had blown in, should prove how light the actual damage was' [1473]. The truth seems to have been, as W. A. Munford later wrote, ‘Chaucer House might have been completely burnt out had it not been for the prompt action of its senior porter, E. A. Hornsby, who gallantly fought the fires alone until help was forthcoming; thanks to him, damage was slight’ [1474]. The adjacent National Central Library was very seriously damaged by fire, but since most of the Library Association staff had been transferred to temporary accommodation in the Public Library at Launceston (from 1940 to 1943), the vacated space at Chaucer House was able to be placed at the disposal of the stricken National Central Library. University College to the north and other buildings on both sides of the mews’ entrance were seriously damaged [1475].

Cyril Hankinson (died 1984, aged 88), the editor of Debrett’s Peerage, later recalled the worrying days that month when he could not get to his office in Ludgate Hill, once walking down Fleet Street whilst flames shot up from the man-holes where escapes of gas had become ignited, the way eventually barred by fire engines and unexploded bombs, and then telephoning from the Post Office in New Bridge Street to hear the reassuring tones of the bell ringing in his abandoned but unscathed office [1476].

Very sensibly later that year all the Society's 'duplicates for loan' were sent to safety [1477] and later the collection of poll books, which included the fifty given by Harry Pitman in 1938 [1478], was also wisely sent to the country [1479]. The Society's material was taken to Gloucestershire by the kindness of one member and housed by another, Charles Holmes Harrison (1872-1949), at his home at Algars Manor, Iron Acton, about ten miles from Bristol [1480]. Harrison, late of the Indian Civil Service, was married to Marjorie Delves Broughton, a first cousin of the librarian Bethell Bouwens [1481]. It was, as Lord Mersey remarked in 1945, 'most fortunate' that the Society had not suffered damage from bombing and worthy of mention that it had kept the library open throughout the War [1482]. The records and principal collections of the College of Arms had been removed to Thornbury Castle, also in Gloucestershire, the home of Sir Algar Howard, from 1939 to 1945 [1483], and the College had a very narrow escape from destruction by fire, also on 10 May 1941, when all the buildings on its east side were destroyed [1484]. Upwards of 30,000 books at the Guildhall Library were destroyed by bombing and many thousands more badly damaged [1485].

Mrs Blomfield recorded at the end of 1941 that some thirty-four new members had joined the Society since the start of the war but at least two of the younger members had been killed on active service and overall, with other deaths and unpaid subscriptions, there had been a decrease in numbers [1486]. Her Annual Reports sadly provide few statistics, but the entrance fees paid by new Members, £97 in 1939, slumped to £22 in 1940 and did not recover to the pre-War figure until 1952. For the first time in some years there was an excess of income over expenditure (of £78) in 1941 though Percival Boyd had made a donation of £168. The number of daily visitors had surprisingly been greater than in 1940.

In 1942 there were fifty-eight new members, of whom thirteen were in the UK or Allied Forces, an average of six members using the rooms daily, together with, in the course of the year, eighty day or half-day searchers. She noted that ‘statistics were never very welcome’ but gave these to justify the policy of keeping the library open and providing the usual services [1487]. One wonders what statistics she would have produced if the library had had a direct hit. Percival Boyd made another donation of £35 and £200 was received under the will of Harry Pitman.

George Sherwood was Chairman of the Executive for the three years during the War, 1941-43, as well as being Honorary Treasurer. He advertised, 'Ancestors traced; descent and kinship proved. Speciality, the conservation of records in War time, and, above all, indexing' [1488]. In 1942 Reginald Glencross, whose home at Wimbledon had been much damaged by blasts in 1939 [1489], presented to the Society his own large collection of papers, many relating to Cornwall and described in the Annual Report as ‘equal in importance to any of the collections previously received’ [1490]. Sherwood thought it 'one of the most important the Society has received' [1491], but he was later much criticised for breaking it up, regardless of its index, and filing each careful pedigree amongst the others in the Society’s Document Collection.

Another important accession received about this time but not mentioned in the Magazine or in the Annual Reports of the Society was a cabinet containing a fifty-seven draw slip index compiled by James William Fawcett (1867-1942), of Satley, county Durham [1492], relating generally to North Country families. Fawcett, who was not a member of the Society, was the son of a small farmer at Satley and had travelled extensively overseas when young but returned to publish The Birds of Durham and Tow Law, its Foundation and Early History in 1890. Then, after a period in Australia where he continued his interests in natural history and the local clergy, he came back to Satley to write a series of books on the Derwent Valley, to transcribe local parish registers and to become a prolific contributor to various local papers and journals on every aspect of local history, usually describing himself as a journalist. He had a considerable interest in the clergy and in the early Primitive Methodists of the area and his index, which was little used and not fully alphabetised until the 1960s, contains much material about them.

The most active Bethell Bouwens continued to attend regularly at the Society until within a few months of his death on 24 October 1942, aged 58, his courteous and helpful presence being particularly appreciated because of the lack of other staff [1493]. Kathleen Blomfield's Assistant, Audrey Jennings, had been obliged to leave in August 1940 'owing to retrenchment and economy' [1494]. It was ‘a pity’, as Sherwood wrote to Percy Smith, ‘but we had no choice’ [1495]. Her departure was followed by that of Miss Locke, about whom I have no personal details but who had been with the Society for nearly four years. She left shortly before the Annual Meeting in April 1941 when William Gun paid a tribute to her as 'always so efficient and ready to help Members'. Mrs Blomfield said that ‘her pleasant personality is greatly missed’ and much difficulty was experienced in replacing her for she had, since July 1940, done much of the work formerly undertaken by Miss Jennings. Staffing problems generally were acute and at the Debrett office Cyril Hankinson recalled young girls coming and going and being obliged to engage boys and girls in their school holidays to address envelopes [1496]. At the Society Mrs Blomfield was then described as the only remaining member of the permanent staff [1497]. So that she could have a holiday and because it was impossible to obtain relief help, the Society closed its rooms for two weeks in 1941 (20 September - 6 October) and no correspondence was attended to [1498]. The Annual Report says ‘The Executive Committee propose to continue this practice’ [1499] and the closure was repeated in June-July 1942 [1500], June-July 1943 [1501], August 1944 [1502], June-July 1945 [1503], June-July 1946 [1504] and June-July 1947 [1505].

However, matters were slightly improved when Miss Kathleen Sayers (1902-1951), who had been with the British Dental Association for nine years and had latterly acted as Senior Library Assistant there, was appointed Assistant Secretary in October 1941, an appointment that Mrs Blomfield considered ‘most fortuitous, since she already had experience in a specialist library and was accustomed to dealing with library enquiries’. The Society was, however, ‘without a junior of any kind, and all the work, which is not less than in peace-time, must be shared between the Secretary and Miss Sayers’ [1506]. That was remedied with the arrival in 1942 of ‘our youngest and latest comer, Rita Drenon’ [1507], who was only fourteen! [1508].

Lord Mersey, President

A new President of the Society, Charles Clive (Bingham), 2nd Viscount Mersey (1872-1956) [1509], a noted traveller and diplomat, was elected at the Annual Meeting on 11 April 1942 when it was mentioned that he was a trustee of The Complete Peerage and had been a keen genealogist all his life [1510]. He took a close interest in the Society, particularly during the move, and presided at many of its meetings and at the popular luncheons mentioned below, remaining President until 1956. His father, the 1st Viscount, had made a name for himself when heading the Board of Trade enquiries into the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the RMS Lusitania and the RMS Empress of Ireland.

 Staffing, 1942-1947

I have the impression that Kathleen Blomfield did not altogether approve of Bethell Bouwens' activities in the Library and after his death in October 1942 the Committee decided not to appoint another Honorary Librarian for the duration of the War [1511]. There had been some criticism of Bouwens’s re-arrangement of the books in the Library bays but the Executive Committee agreed in 1943 that the then arrangement followed the lines laid down by Major Percy-Smith when he was honorary-librarian and that any further alteration should await his return. He had been appointed Corresponding Member of the Indian Historical Records Commission for the next five years [1512].

Kathleen Sayers acted as Assistant to Mrs Blomfield from March to September 1943, but the latter apparently worked without a formally named Assistant for the remainder of the War, describing herself in the Magazine as 'Secretary and Acting Librarian' from March 1943 to March 1945. In May 1945 Lord Mersey said that Mrs Blomfield had, we might think not surprisingly, been 'ill for some considerable time', but she had carried on working 'and had managed to surround herself with an efficient staff' [1513]. The strains and stresses of wartime London may have had their effect on Miss Sayers also, for she left late in 1943 and died in Paddington Hospital aged 48 in 1951.

After the War, however, Mrs Blomfield complained (through Lord Mersey) that salaries generally had almost doubled since 1939 and that well-qualified staff were not obtainable with the salaries offered. Aside from members, there were about 500 non-members a year coming to the rooms and considerable correspondence [1514]. The following year the situation improved and in 1947 she was able to say that the assistants were interested in the work and their advent had done much to further the smooth running of the Society [1515].

Destruction of Records

As during the First World War many irreplaceable records were destroyed, so in the Second many were destroyed as a result of the incessant salvage drives. As early as November 1939 Mrs Blomfield had written to the Radio Times challenging a remark that if anyone was in two minds as to what to do with waste paper they should ‘throw it away’, appealing to listeners who were in doubt not to throw old documents away but to consult either the British Records Association or the Society about them [1516]. She returned to the subject in the Magazine in March 1943, commending the great enthusiasm of the volunteers at the Annual Meeting of the British Records Association but at the same time chastising the collections and actions of incompetent genealogists! [1517].

Some years before the War there had been a sudden growth in a fashion for making lampshades from old parchment documents but the wartime concentration on military production fortunately meant the virtual disappearance of the lampshade industry. Sadly, after the War the manufacture revived, the parchments generally coming from solicitor's offices. Deeds, bonds, indentures and probate copies of wills thus found a ready market [1518]. Once more, Cregoe Nicholson pointed out the activities of the Records Preservation Section of the British Records Association in sorting and distributing unwanted records from solicitors' offices and urged the members to support its work [1519]. Nicholson had a life-long interest in the work of the Association, encouraging me to become a Life Member in 1957, and again stressing its importance to the members in 1959 [1520]. Back in 1936 when Honorary Librarian he had written to the Observer about a fashion for collecting Revenue Stamps cut from documents, urging those involved to preserve the complete record, but perhaps unwisely mentioning the large collection of such stamps on original apprenticeship indentures at the Society [1521].

War Visitors and Membership

In 1943 there was an upsurge in membership, with seventy-three new members joining and many visitors, particularly from the American and Dominion Forces stationed in England. One hundred and thirty one persons used the library as day searchers (as against eighty the previous year), the youngest being twelve years old, and some 600 books were borrowed. Donations of books continued, some 387 were received of which sixty were parish register copies [1522]. However, the overhead expenses continued to increase and as the Annual Report said, money was now much needed with which to pay for typing and indexing the parish register transcripts. It was a vain hope, the Society being on a strict quota of paper because of the War.

Mrs Blomfield gave a very upbeat assessment of the Society's general situation in a 'Retrospect and Prospect' which appeared in the Magazine in March 1944 [1523] and in the Annual Report she said that the year had proved to be one of the busiest in the history of the Society [1524]. At the Annual Meeting in May the President, Lord Mersey, said that some fifty new members had been elected since January and that a friendly invasion of our American allies and Dominion servicemen had overtaken Chaucer House, where enquiries, both in person and by letter, averaged forty a week [1525]. The total numbers for the year are unfortunately again not given in the Report. A note in the September 1944 Magazine put the number of American visitors at only thirty a week and less after the Normandy Landings. The Americans’ problems were the same: so few knew anything about the identity of their first migrant ancestor, let alone where he came from in England.

The American section of the library was, however, for a time the most in use and owing to the great demand it was decided to prohibit loans from its shelves [1526]. Over 800 books were borrowed in 1944, but the loan of outsize books by post was stopped early in the year, it being difficult to obtain adequate packaging and quite impossible to get damaged books repaired. In spite of the great reduction in the number of books being printed, the library received 318 books and it was decided to increase by fifty per cent its valuation for insurance purposes. The accessions of unbound register transcripts were again delayed because of the problems of getting them bound. A non-member, Miss Rosalind Pole-Stuart (died 1986), voluntarily typed a large number of registers at this time in spite of living on the front line at Folkestone, but the home of Mrs John Glyn, a member who was also typing registers, was destroyed by a rocket though she fortunately escaped unhurt and was able to salvage the work on which she was engaged [1527].

The Society’s staffing problems continued throughout 1944 in the face of the Ministry of Labour’s veto on the employment of people aged between eighteen and fifty in unscheduled occupations and this, coupled with the inadequate heating in the winter months, combined to oblige the Society to close for a while on Mondays though it stayed open all day on Saturdays. Members and staff could thus avoid the coldest day of the week, after Sunday when there was no heating at all. The heating system was designed to be on at all times but was on only in the mornings, which was all that was allowed by the fuel controller. As a result even the library bays with radiators were frequently below forty degrees, and never, even at 5 pm, above fifty if the weather was at all severe [1528].

The situation in Scotland was much the same, with many Canadian servicemen and Americans coming to make searches for their ancestors whilst on leave, and in 1945 the Scots Ancestry Research Society was founded on a non-profit making basis, supported by the Secretary of State for Scotland and with money in trust for the purpose given by a private donor. An article in The Scotsman said that, compared to the Public Record Office, the Scottish Record Office was starved of funds and that Scottish historical scholarship was thus impeded. Research into ancestries was only a 'frill' though successful search depended upon adequate indexing of the records. It might, however, the article concluded, have some economic value in inducing American tourists to visit the scenes of their ancestors' exploits [1529]. By 1972 it had investigated more than 26,000 enquiries [1530]. A Scottish member, the accountant Matthew Stirling (died 1981), had meanwhile given the Society of Genealogists a most valuable collection of works on Scotland [1531] of which 140 volumes were placed on the shelves and a large number of duplicates disposed of [1532] and he followed this up with a complete set of volumes published by the Stair Society [1533]. The Scottish Genealogy Society, 'an academic and consultative body', which did not undertake any form of research, was founded in 1953 and commenced a quarterly journal in 1954 [1534].

Research for others

Back in March 1938 it had been agreed that searches for particular entries might be made in the Library at a charge of one shilling per entry per index, but more general searches could still be made for ten shillings a day, or about 1s 6d an hour [1535]. However, the Society, finding that there were an increasing number of small accounts that were not met, decided the following year that all orders for publications and research should be pre-paid [1536]. It was in 1938 that the highly efficient Miss Freda Podmore, BA (Cantab) (1895-1982),  commenced work at the Society as a research assistant, a post that she retained until 1950 when she embarked on research on her own account [1537], then becoming a regular visitor.

In 1944 the Executive Committee increased the charges for searches in the library 'by a competent research assistant' to 3s an hour for members and to 6s an hour for non-members. Specific searches in some indexes such as Boyd’s Marriage Index or the Apprenticeship Index still being made for a shilling (two shillings for non-members), but the charge for typing index slips from the Card Index was increased to a shilling for the first page (about 30 entries) and six pence per page thereafter, all fees being payable in advance [1538]. However, the services of the Research Department were much in demand and there was an appreciable delay in carrying out the work [1539]. Perhaps as a result, in 1948 the charges for members were increased to 5s an hour or 35s a day, with only 'straightforward copying' at 3s an hour, non-members paying two guineas a day and pro rata [1540] In early 1951 the fees were reduced to the pre-War rates, a whole day’s research costing only 10s, shorter periods being charged pro rata, the 1s fee for specified indexes remaining and non-members paying double [1541]. However, these unrealistic fees were quickly increased in June 1951 to two guineas a day for members and two and a half guineas a day for non-members [1542].

The number of visitors at the Society continued relatively high into 1945 with 2,000 visits by members and 300 by visitors, as well as many day searchers.  Sixty new members had joined [1543]. Again detailed comparative statistics rarely appear in the Annual Reports and those that do (and have been mentioned above) must be taken with a degree of scepticism. New members paid an entrance fee of a guinea and yet in 1943 we are told that there were 73 new members, whereas the Accounts show an income of only £59-6-6. In 1942 some 58 new members produced £43-1-0 and in 1941 some 34 produced £26-2-6. Perhaps Mrs Blomfield, with her dislike for statistics, thought such things of little importance. After I retired at the end of the century some entrance fees were waived but that was not previously the case so far as I am aware. Entrance or Joining Fees (then at £10) were wholly abolished  (and that source of income lost) when the two tier membership of full and associate members was introduced in 2017, though no announcement was made to that effect.

Membership Subscriptions, 1945

Percival Boyd had suggested in his last 'Chairman's Page' in June 1940 that the annual subscriptions for new country members which remarkably had not changed since 1911 and those of town members, unchanged since 1921, ought to be increased to reflect the great growth in the value of the Society's collections. He recommended that Town Members should pay three guineas (instead of two) and Country Members two guineas (instead of one) and that overseas members be charged one guinea, the entrance fee remaining at one guinea. He also thought that the search fee levied on non-members for use of the Library should be 21s a month or 5s a day [1544].

Boyd had obviously followed the Society's financial affairs closely for some time and when he retired from the Chairmanship in the summer of 1940, although George Sherwood was technically the Honorary Treasurer, the hope was expressed that Boyd would 'continue to help look after the finances of the Society as in the past' [1545]. Boyd continued to press the Executive Committee about the subscriptions and at the Annual Meeting in May 1944 again spoke about his earlier suggestion for increases after the War and it was agreed to recommend them to the Executive Committee [1546].

As a consequence when the War ended the subscriptions for new members joining after May 1945 were increased to three guineas for the town and two guineas for the country members as Boyd had recommended [1547] and an appeal was made to the existing members to voluntarily increase their subscriptions to these rates, as some had already done [1548]. The subscriptions of new overseas members were allowed to stay at a guinea, thus creating a separate class of member [1549].

In 1941 Mrs Blomfield had warned members of the likely increase and said that anyone who resigned for the duration of the War and then joined again would not only have to pay the increased rate but also an entrance fee, whereas those who continued to subscribe would be able to do so at the pre-war rate [1550]. With the rules as they were this was correct, but it did not bode well for future increases and tedious arguments (and careful calculations!) as to whether it was worthwhile for a lapsed member to pay up the intervening subscriptions or to re-join at the new rates continued to waste much office time for many years.

Committee for Microfilming

Throughout the War the Society’s Annual Reports briefly mention the work of microfilming parish registers, the slow receipt of transcribed copies and the problems and cost of adequate binding before transcripts could be placed on the Society’s shelves. In 1945 Mrs Blomfield wrote, ‘Many enquiries have been received regarding the possibility of copies of Registers being made from the microfilms which were taken under the auspices of the Committee for Microfilming Parish Registers. We must emphasize that the Society has no rights whatsoever in these films, and that when things become more normal the Committee for Microfilming Parish Registers hopes to go forward with its scheme of transcribing from projected films. At the time of writing, however, there is no prospect of obtaining either a suitable projector or experienced workers to transcribe the film or type when transcription is complete. To carry out such would be a major undertaking and this must await more settled times’ [1551].

The Committee consisted of herself and Kendall Percy-Smith. Uneasy observers, and there were several, had cause for concern as to how this situation would develop. The Society’s own Parish Register Sub-Committee had been abolished. She had a full time job (though that had not hindered her from spending much time on the microfilming project previously) and Percy-Smith, although a charming and helpful man, was devoted to his Indian projects and as time passed not at all capable alone of the extended hard work that the problem needed if it were to be resolved.

Kendall Percy-Smith returns, 1945

Kendall Percy-Smith returned to London as a Lieutenant Colonel after six years in India 'in charge of the Indian Army's pay' [1552] and resumed his duty as Honorary Librarian to the Society in the autumn of 1945. The Annual Report in December says that the Library had greatly benefited by his return, his helpfulness in the Library and the confident expectation of an improved catalogue and shelf arrangement. With a small band of voluntary workers he began systematically to re-catalogue the library and by the end of 1946 had completed several counties [1553]. The wording of the Annual Report is exaggerated for large numbers of catalogue cards made by Bethell Bouwens and others were still very much in evidence ten years later.

Percy-Smith had had a ‘good War’ and he brought with him for the library over a hundred books dealing with Europeans in India and a number of typed volumes, compiled in collaboration with Brigadier Humphrey Bullock, containing 30,000 'Births and Deaths in India' [1554]. At some stage he started a card index to officers and others in India which was housed at the Society. Called the 'India Index', its ownership (rather like that of the Committee for Microfilming) was somewhat uncertain, particularly when whole drawers disappeared to be worked upon. In 1953 it was reported that he and others had recently added some 50,000 fresh cards [1555]. Earlier, in 1948, he had started to compile a slip index to the marriages registered in the India Office Records, 1698-1900, and he and Miss Goulding completed 12,000 slips which were kept separate, but the valuable project was unfortunately never completed [1556], the slips being much later interfiled with those of his main 'India Index'. He would have been appalled at the suggestions made in 1955 that the India Office Library and its records be divided and sent to New Delhi and Karachi [1557]. In later years Kendall Percy-Smith spent much time making additions to a card index at the National Army Museum of officers of the East India Company, 1600-1860, which had been started by his friend Major Vernon C. P. Hodson (1883-1963), also a Fellow of the Society and the author of the monumental List of the Officers of the Bengal Army 1748-1834 (4 vols. 1927-47), who had retired to Georgeham, North Devon. Working with Lieut. Col. Charles Barnard Appleby (died 1975), the first Director of the Museum, Percy-Smith extended the 'Hodson Index' to include India and Burma Government Services, 1861-1943.

Before the War the Society had helped many Germans looking for English ancestry as a result of Hitler's Ahnenpass requirements and now the Society found itself receiving even larger numbers of enquiries from many former servants of the Raj, often long resident in India or Burma and their descendants who wished to retain British Nationality after the passage of the 1947 India Act and who needed to establish British ancestry. In this they were greatly assisted by Percy-Smith and the collections he had built up and placed in the library. When these were not of help, he himself freely devoted his time to obtaining the evidence required from outside sources [1558]. The Society’s staff assisted in the work and even some ten years later I remember dealing with many such enquiries. By July 1949 Mrs Blomfield was able to say that 500 people had won British passports because of the Society's aid [1559] and the work attracted further publicity when the Evening Standard twice reported that people of mixed and British descent were asking the Society to trace their male-line ancestry and that others of 'pure British stock' who had lived in India or Pakistan for generations without establishing their citizenship were now keen to do so, some with the thought of going to Australia [1560]. In 1951 it was noted that there had been a falling off of research work in this connection [1561].

1946-7 Post-War conditions

With the steady growth in the Society’s collections the space available for the Library was now becoming extremely cramped. Lord Mersey referred to the situation at the Annual Meeting in 1945, saying that 'the question of library space and seating accommodation was becoming very urgent' [1562]. At the next Meeting in June 1946 he made a plea that members enter into seven-year covenants so that the Society could claim the tax paid on their subscriptions, a scheme first put into operation that year and which usefully produced an extra £77 for the Society in 1947 [1563]. At that 1946 Annual Meeting, Lord Mersey had spoken about the Society’s salaries, saying how difficult clerical labour was to obtain and that salaries had almost doubled since 1939. Well-qualified staff were essential, he said, but had not previously been obtainable on the salaries the Society had been able to afford. There was apparently some discussion (not reported in the Magazine) which resulted in a break-down of the salaries being shown in the Income and Expenditure Account that year. The administrative costs were £572, the research staff cost £296 (against an income of £340) and transcribing, indexing and typing parish registers cost £170 plus £23 for stationery [1564]. I suspect that there was some underlying unease about the financial arrangements with the Committee for Microfilming, let alone about who paid Mrs Blomfield’s salary, and the Accounts show that the Committee, perhaps prompted by this discussion, made a grant of £100 to the Society towards the copying costs in 1946 and again in 1947. The sale of typescripts produced nothing in 1946, but £95 for the Society in 1947.

However, conditions in the year immediately after the war, Kathleen Blomfield thought, did not differ greatly from those in the late war years. Restrictions on paper for printing continued and there was a fuel crisis affecting heating and lighting, but ninety-five members joined as against sixty the previous year. The number of members using the rooms also increased by about a thousand and some three thousand signed the book. This, however, caused overcrowding on Saturdays and members were asked not to bring visitors on that day. The possibility of excluding day searchers on Saturdays was also discussed but it was found that on average only one came then [1565]. Only two issues of the Magazine were being published each year but it was at last possible to re-print the Articles of Association. The winter series of lectures was resumed, but without tea because of the rationing [1566].

Many overseas visitors, service and civilian, had found their way to the Society during and immediately after the War years, particularly Americans and Canadians seeking to confirm English ancestry, but the problems in helping them were considerable. Many American service men who had seen first-hand the research difficulties, wrote subsequently and commissioned research, the Society charging ten dollars a day [1567] or ten shillings if they came to do the work themselves. An article in The Spectator about lack of guidance drew a swift and detailed response from Mrs Blomfield [1568] and The Sketch under 'The dollar-value of an ancestor' provided an illustrated account of the Society's work, commencing 'Masses of Americans want ancestors; we want masses of dollars, and combined operations produces both', showing both an illuminated pedigree and a microfilming operator [1569]. The Spectator's suggestion that the British Travel Association should get involved was not, however, taken up until 1957.

In March 1947 because of the growing numbers using the rooms and the consequent overcrowding it was decided not to admit guests who were not paying search fees unless they were attending a lecture [1570] and at the AGM in July Lord Mersey again stressed that much more space was needed and that steps should be taken to look for new premises. The Honorary Treasurer, George Sherwood, in view of the loss that year, rather uneasily noted that some £250 had been spent on the purchase of books [1571]. The Annual Report, however, recognised ‘a pressing need to build up the capital fund’ and said that the Executive Committee was considering ways and means whereby larger premises might be acquired, preference being given to the purchase of a freehold with rooms for expansion which, in the first years, could be sublet [1572]. The number of new members fell back to sixty-eight in 1947 and those overseas visitors who had joined during the War were now letting their memberships lapse, though the number of enquiries by mail was now running at about five or six daily. Some 839 books were received in 1947 and the number received for review doubled on the previous year, from twenty-four to fifty-three. There was also a large accumulation of books that needed to be put through the accession process and catalogued. Tea was, however, once more available on the six lecture days [1573].

In 1947 Percy-Smith was singled out for praise at the AGM as devoting much time to the Library, though, as Viscount Mersey said, the Society's prosperity was largely due to Mrs Blomfield to whom it was difficult to express sufficient thanks [1574]. However, the expenditure had in fact exceeded income by ‘the moderately large’ amount of £192 that year. The situation improved in 1948 when a hundred new members joined and there was a net gain of forty-seven. There was a substantial increase in the number of visits made by members to 3,700 as against about 3,000 in 1947 and the numbers of books added to the library, taken out on loan and received for review, all increased [1575]. The improvement did not, however, last and there was a marked drop in new members (to 65) in 1949; the total membership at the end of the year being 989. It was the first time the Annual Report had mentioned the total figure for many years [1576] and twenty years earlier it had been 875.

However, the joint-praise of Mrs Blomfield and Colonel Percy-Smith for the 'tremendous amount of work and time which they devote to the well-being of the Society' was once more repeated [1577]. The long-standing friendly relationship between Dr and Mrs Blomfield and the Colonel was, however, the cause of much speculation, particularly after the doctor's death on 9 November 1948 [1578] and when, later, the two friends moved to neighbouring houses with an interconnecting door at Mayford near Woking!

Technique and The Genealogists’ Magazine

In September 1942 a former long-serving judge in the Sudan and at Alexandria, Sir Wasey Sterry, CBE (1866-1955), had been prevailed upon to take over as Editor of the Magazine in succession to Bouwens, 'for the duration of the War'. He was much assisted with the twice-yearly publication by Mrs Blomfield and continued as Editor until June 1947, but the production of the Magazine was latterly seriously delayed owing to the fuel cuts.

However, in September 1947, Philip John Ryves Harding (1906-1972), a distinguished and well-connected journalist and a member since 1929, was persuaded to take over the Honorary Editorship, and, in spite of the increased cost of printing (by now £70 an issue when it had been £37 before the War) [1579] four issues were once more provided in that year. However, some £210 was recovered from Magazine sales and advertising. Harding had been Lobby Correspondent of the Financial News 1935-39 and after active service in the War he was appointed Diplomatic Correspondent of the Financial Times, 1946-48. He then joined The Times, writing on financial and commercial subjects, afterwards as deputy to the Diplomatic Correspondent and later as editor of Special Supplements.

It is interesting that at this time Anthony Wagner should have considered that 'the development of modern genealogical technique has consisted largely in the construction of special indexes and the development of the use of selected sources as indexes to others' [1580]. However, either Sterry or Harding was responsible for an interesting series of articles designed to show in a practical manner the procedures by which several members had researched their ancestries. They reveal in a fascinating way the sources that searchers were then using and the problems that they encountered along the way. The idea for the series probably came from Hugh Shellshear Pocock (1894-1987), a member from 1924 and Secretary of the British Record Society, who said in the first article that he had often thought it would be helpful to the less-experienced genealogist if he could learn through the Magazine how other beginners had succeeded in fitting together a pedigree of, say, four or five generations and the successive steps that this had involved.

Pocock's article 'Five Generations' [1581] had used the Middlesex Deeds Registry, and was followed by John Nissen Deacon, MC (1892-1959) with 'Twelve Generations' [1582] and its elements of luck in the records of the Excise and Duchy of Cornwall, then by Gerald Hamilton-Edwards, 'Six Generations' [1583], with its use of a wide range of sources for a middle-class family, and by Erik Chitty (1907-1977) [1584] with 'Nine Generations' [1585], stressing the importance of the Society's apprenticeship records. In 1948 Gerald Hamilton-Edwards also contributed one of the first major articles on the indexing and filing of genealogical material, including notes on pedigree reproduction and on reflex and photographic copying [1586].

Owing to the pressure of his newspaper work Harding sadly gave up the editorship of the Magazine after the June issue in 1952 [1587]. His short-lived successor as editor was Edward Stewart Gray (1913-1989), a Fellow of the Irish Genealogical Research Society and a member since 1931, but Gray gave up due to ill health after the March 1954 issue [1588].

Harding and Gray were not able to make any innovations to the Magazine owing to the general need for economy. They were greatly aided by the officers of the Society where all the administrative work, the make-up and proof-reading, was then done, the editors merely selecting material from that received, and making a final check of the proofs, any questions of policy being decided by the editorial committee [1589]. There was always some criticism of the Magazine and at the Annual Meeting in 1952 Dr T. Hare said that he thought that more space should be given to genealogical research, names, dates and places, but Cregoe Nicholson replied that the Magazine was principally intended as a news magazine and should not attempt to print records [1590].

PCC Wills

An effort was made in 1948 to find volunteers to index the PCC wills, 1721-1730 [1591], but only Charles William Winstanley (1878-1954), of Chorley Wood, who had joined the Executive Committee that year, came forward. At his death in 1954 he had written slips from the old calendars for the years 1721-1725 only [1592]. For many years this short period remained the only one covered and it was not superseded until the indexing work of the Friends of the Public Record Office much later in the century.

Parish Registers and Microfilming

Meanwhile the microfilming work of the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) had, after the War, revived somewhat and as early as December 1945 that Society had obtained permission to copy the collection of register transcripts in Newcastle Public Library. A local LDS church member, James Cunningham, obtained an old camera from a local bank and within two weeks he and Frank Smith had finished the work, having taught themselves how to operate the machine [1593].

In 1950, as mentioned, the GSU had filmed the registers of the Isle of Man and in 1951 permission was granted to film the Old Parochial Registers and Census Returns in Scotland [1594]. Permission to film church registers in England remained particularly difficult to obtain, but the GSU had more success with the civil authorities and in 1952 it commenced an enormous and highly important ten-year programme to microfilm the pre-1858 probate records at Somerset House and elsewhere [1595].

In March 1949 the Bishop of Norwich had found that the clergy in his diocese were again being approached by the GSU for permission to microfilm their registers and he put out a statement saying that apart from the questions of copyright this would mean the loss of future fees for searching and 'for this and other reasons he was strongly of the opinion that no incumbent will agree to the request' [1596].

In the following November, however, the Archbishop of Canterbury issued a statement confirming the arrangement with the Society of Genealogists (saying that it was 'set up just before the war') and warning against the filming of registers 'under any condition' by 'other bodies' [1597]. The statement received some publicity [1598] and an unsigned note printed in the Magazine at the same time said that the work was being done by the Committee 'under the auspices of the Society', that microfilms were still being made and that it would 'provide typewritten indexed copies of parish registers for the use of Incumbents so that wear and tear on the originals through handling may be reduced to a minimum'. The microfilms would be deposited in official repositories and not issued on any pretext whatever, but if the Incumbent could show that the original register had been destroyed then a copy would be made [1599].

At the Society of Genealogists many hundreds of registers were filmed on the promise that these indexed transcripts would be given to the churches concerned, but the ease with which something could be microfilmed greatly outpaced the work of typing and indexing and there began a stream of complaints and public criticism of broken promises. In 1946 and again in 1947, as we have seen, Mrs Blomfield and Colonel Percy-Smith gave £100 to the Society to facilitate the typing [1600], aiming to provide one new register a week [1601], and in 1948 the Annual Report spoke of the Committee, now calling itself the Committee for Microfilming and Copying Parish Registers, making itself ‘responsible for the payment of typists’, but no further donations appeared in the accounts and the Report again appealed for volunteer typists and indexers [1602].

The problem was exacerbated, as the two involved fully recognised in the Society's Annual Report for 1949, by the fact that although the Committee had provided the Society with a large number of transcripts, many of these were not reaching the library shelves. Some were awaiting indexes, whilst others were too small to bind, the heavy expense of binding making it imperative that only volumes containing the maximum number of pages be bound.  The registers of small parishes in the same county were bound together when sufficient had accumulated but this sometimes took several years. Binding very thin volumes also aggravated the problem of lack of shelf space [1603]. These problems were very real and not always appreciated by the members. Temporary catalogue entries on pink cards were made for unbound transcripts and these were available on application to the library staff but the members were not always accustomed to using the library catalogue.

Mrs Blomfield Resigns

Unfortunately the transfer of funds to an independent group outside the control of the Executive Committee began to be questioned and at the AGM on 28 June 1950 it was announced that Mrs Blomfield had signified that she wished to retire at the end of the year [1604]. She would be 55 in July and it was said in the Annual Report that her retirement was ‘partly due to ill-health’. An unsigned note, probably written by William Edward Coode Cotton (1901-1961) [1605], Chairman of the Executive Committee in 1950-53, appeared in the Magazine immediately after the Minutes of the Meeting and paid a glowing tribute to her work, saying that she had served the Society with a rare combination of unselfish loyalty, administrative ability and wide knowledge of the genealogical field. In twenty years she had missed only one Executive Committee. Her dependability and inexhaustible energy were, indeed, for many years deeply missed [1606]. At a lecture by Michael Trinick on ‘A country house index’ in January 1951, with her successor in place, she was presented with a cheque from the Executive Committee 'in sincere recognition of her long and valuable service' [1607]. In an interview reported in the Belfast Telegraph on page 5 of its issue for 14 December 1950 she said that 55 was the best age for retirement, adding 'Go while you are still wanted instead of waiting to be wanted to go'. She intended to do some work on her Dutch grandmother's family which involved a visit to Holland, with a band of volunteers she was preparing a history of Isleworth, and as hon secretary of the Committee for Microfilming and Copying Parish Registers she 'would help to complete records which will be stored permanently in a place of safety and will make copies to enable the original historic documents to be preserved'.

Cotton's statement had also noted that Mrs Blomfield intended to devote part of her leisure to the work of the Committee for Microfilming Parish Registers [1608] with which she would ‘remain actively associated’ [1609] and in February 1951, at the request of that Committee, the Society closed the special account (then containing £205-17-6) and it was re-opened in the name of the Committee. Mrs Blomfield then became a member of the Society [1610] and at the AGM on 14 June 1951 she was proposed for election to the Executive Committee by two of its members, Geoffrey White and the professional genealogist Cecil Warburton Brand (1886-1982), but the much-respected Wilfred Sampson Samuel (1886-1958) [1611], another Committee member and a friend of Nicholson, said that this would not be fair to the new Secretary and Mrs Blomfield was not elected [1612].

The problem of the future extent of the Society's involvement in the transcription of registers remained, it having no typists or organisation of its own. At that June 1951 meeting a long-standing member Richard Dodson Cheveley (1887-1983) said that repeated reminders to the Society had not produced a register to transcribe and the Chairman, William Cotton, said that steps were being taken to clarify the functions of the Society and of the Committee for Microfilming in that connection. Herbert John Willis (1887-1979) of the Bank of England, just elected to the Executive Committee, said that when he copied registers he was not aware that he was doing work for the Committee and Cregoe Nicholson, in his general dislike for Kathleen Blomfield, urged the Society to continue its own work of transcription, not through another body, pointing out that years ago it received on average a typed copy of a parish register each week. Hilda Hooper (1880-1962) [1613], a forceful art mistress at the City of London School for Girls, thought that mistakes were made in transcripts and for that reason the work of the Committee for Microfilming should be encouraged, though by this time the filming work had in fact long since ceased and the films, in any case, would not be accessible.

A month after the AGM the Executive Committee set up a new 'Sub-Committee on Copying Parish Registers' to consider the means by which the flow of copies into the library might be increased and appealed for offers of help from amongst the members [1614]. Major V. W. B. Church, the new Secretary of the Society, then put out a statement that the Society had agreed to extend its work of transcription by setting up local committees. He hoped that interested persons might contact him, reverting to the idea in a letter to The Times the following year [1615], but his appeal fell on deaf ears.

Although the nominal Chairman of the Committee for Microfilming, Lord Mersey (died 1956), was also the President of the Society, and Mrs Blomfield and Percy-Smith were the Joint Honorary Secretaries, the whole affair had caused deep divisions within the Society and there were those who would not let the matter drop. At an Executive Committee on 11 February 1953, Cecil Brand proposed and Cregoe Nicholson seconded and it was agreed to set up a Fact-Finding Sub-Committee about the copyright of the National Index and the payments made by the Pilgrim Trust. Its members were William Cotton, Sir William Elderton, John Beach Whitmore and Sir Stanley Wyatt [1616]. Looking back over the Minutes it must have been clear to them that there was fault on both sides but the copyright undoubtedly belonged to the Society and the printers were so informed.

The Sub-Committee recommended that the Committee for Microfilming 'be asked to supply accounts showing how the sum of £149-11-4 (the balance of the original £300 unexpended in May 1940) and the proceeds of the sale of the remaining copies of the National Index have been applied'. The other £1,500 was 'undoubtedly a gift for copying or micro-filming parish registers'. When the report of the sub-committee was received by the Executive Committee, it was agreed that it be noted and no further action was taken.

The Society now distanced itself from the former valuable work of the Committee for Microfilming and there was a period of almost twenty years in which difficult and embarrassing telephone calls and letters from irate incumbents had to be dodged by the staff, gentle enquiries being occasionally made of Mrs Blomfield and Colonel Percy-Smith as to their progress with particular registers.

Such enquiries were generally dealt with, if sometimes rather slowly, by the ever-courteous Colonel, who for some years did his best to continue the organisation amongst his other interests, disgorging occasional transcripts to be typed, and apparently keeping on good terms with most of those involved. In 1957, whilst living at Old Isleworth, he was able to borrow for transcription by Kenneth Vaughan Elphinstone (1878-1963) the registers of All Saints, Old Isleworth, which had been severely damaged by fire in 1942, the Society making all the arrangements. I came also to know Kathleen Blomfield from her occasional visits to the Society though she did not involve herself in this type of enquiry. The Colonel was involved in the transcription of registers to the end of his life and four months before he died (at Woking on 3 June 1975) sent me a small donation for the Society in exchange for some lined copying paper [1617]. Later in 1975 I went with Brian FitzGerald-Moore (1914-1989), then Chairman of the Executive Committee, to have lunch with Mrs Blomfield, and she showed us a deep garage packed almost to the ceiling with crates and boxes of papers and books which she said, as the Colonel’s residuary legatee [1618], she was determined to deal with. She was employing solicitors in an attempt to recover some of his books loaned to Phillimore & Co and sought to sell others. The Committee for Microfilming's canisters of films had been distributed to safe areas and sixteen films for Oxfordshire parishes were found at Preston in 1976, but the master list could not be found [1619]. Other films passed through the hands of the British Records Association and were distributed to county record offices. However, despite offers of assistance from the Society, Kathleen Blomfield did not tackle the accumulation in the garage and it was not until after her death at Bramley near Guildford at the age of 95 on 1 November 1989 that its contents were sorted and despatched to their appropriate homes. Amongst them her nephew, greatly aided by the archivist Duncan Harrington, found various original registers, long thought lost. The microfilming scheme had been, in the Archbishop's words a 'wise precaution', but it needed much greater resources than were available at the time and it sadly turned into a most discreditable affair that cast a very long shadow.

Book-Plates and Professor Gale

As mentioned the Society had a large collection of book-plates and other heraldic illustrations and in 1950 it was completely reorganized and arranged [1620] in 68 files by Professor Robert Cecil Gale (1888-1975) [1621] who continued to send additions to it, as acknowledged in the Annual Report in 1959 [1622]. He was so pleased when John Phillips and I went down to see him at Eltham at that time. Professor Gale, who because of ill health rarely came to the library, had been Professor of Chemistry and Metallurgy at the Royal Military College, Woolwich, before the Second World War, and was a great benefactor to the Society. As mentioned below he had given a display unit for the hall in 1954 as well as money for binding and other improvements such as a photocopier and he was a regular donor of extremely valuable books, many foreign, including a long run of the Almanac de Gotha. His work on the book-plates was followed by his important Indexes to quartered coats in Harleian Society Visitation Series (£1-10-0; 1961) and Index and Key to the Armorial Glass in the Inns of Court (£2-12-0; 1962) [1623] both of which he compiled, typed and published himself, giving us 150 copies to sell in our embryo bookshop.

Society Librarians, 1950-1956

The latter part of 1950, with Mrs Blomfield’s pending departure, saw other changes and in December the Magazine announced that the Executive Committee had ‘decided to abolish the office of Honorary Librarian’ and to promote Miss Gwynneth Barbara Priddle (1923-1996) to be Librarian, and that future correspondence on library matters should be addressed to her [1624]. Kendall Percy-Smith’s name was strangely not mentioned at that time. Gwynneth Priddle, a practical no-nonsense lady, had been on the staff since 1947 and she served as Librarian until late in 1953 when she became a professional genealogist and record searcher, based at Shoreham [1625]. I remember her as a valuable member of the Executive and other Committees in the years 1963-70 [1626]. However, a tribute to Percy-Smith appeared in the Annual Report which said that his ‘whole-hearted service’ would continue to be available as Chairman of the Library Committee [1627] and he continued in that post until just after the move to Harrington Gardens in 1954 but taking little part in it, being obliged through illness to leave matters to others [1628]. In January 1953 he had written a most enthusiastic article about the Society for The Amateur Historian in which he described Sherwood as the ‘Grand Old Man’ of genealogy and paid a glowing tribute to Kathleen Blomfield, writing of the Society’s ‘rapid growth and expansion’ in her time as Secretary and of her need to retire ‘owing to ill-health’ [1629].

Miss Priddle's successor from December 1953 was Miss P. M. Jones who served as Librarian during the move but left later that year, her name last appearing in the September 1954 Magazine. History does not seem to relate whether she played any part in the organisation at the new building though she must have been involved to some extent. She was followed by Miss Margaret Eva Cohen, BA, FLA, Librarian from late 1954 to November 1956, whose handwriting later became quickly familiar to me. She had private means but was the first qualified librarian to be employed by the Society. She seems to have been hard working and industrious but was criticised ever-after by Cregoe Nicholson for wearing carpet slippers in the library! Neither was mentioned in the Society’s Annual Reports. Miss Cohen had been born at Leeds in 1898, the daughter of Julius Berend Cohen, and she died at Hounslow in 1986, aged 87, being buried with her parents at St Andrew’s, Coniston, Cumbria.

Major Church, Secretary, 1951-1954

Kathleen Blomfield's relatively short-lived successor as Secretary, Major Valentine William Bland Church, OBE, MC (1890-1973), had until recently been Manager of the Bank of India at Bombay, it being rightly thought that his long administrative and financial experience would stand the Society in good stead [1630]. He took up his duties on 1 January 1951 [1631], and although he claimed not to know anything about his ancestry he is chiefly remembered for the growth in the Society's membership during his four-year reign, for successfully moving the Society to new premises and for a highly successful series of annual luncheons. Colonel Percy-Smith, who probably had a hand in his appointment, referred to Church (in his article in The Amateur Historian) as ‘an outstanding organiser … an ardent and indefatigable worker’. Why he left after such a short but successful period remains something of a mystery, though he was then almost sixty-five.

In September 1951 Major Church usefully persuaded the Library Association to allow the Society's members to use the Association's Luncheon Room on the ground floor of Chaucer House [1632]. The provision of lunches and teas for visiting members of the Association and its permanent staff made a small loss each year throughout the 1950s and was mildly controversial but it is said that it was considered no small honour to be invited to the ‘top table’ for lunch, where P. S. J. Welsford (1893-1968) the Secretary presided, ‘and the frequent companionship of senior librarians and visitors from overseas, made such occasions pleasures to be savoured and long remembered’ [1633].

Also long-remembered were the annual luncheons that Church initiated for the Society and which took place in the Venetian Rooms at the Holborn Restaurant, a large and well-known establishment at 218 High Holborn, always costing 17s 6d exclusive of wine. Lord Mersey, the Society's President, was personally responsible for inviting the Guests of Honour and always presided.

The first of these popular luncheons, attended by seventy members and guests, was held on Thursday, 14 June 1951 to celebrate the Society's fortieth anniversary when Lord Mersey relayed a message from the Patron, Queen Mary, expressing her great interest in the work of the Society [1634], and the speaker was Sir Hilary Jenkinson, a Deputy Keeper of the Public Records [1635]. Cregoe Nicholson described it as a brilliant success and it was agreed that it should be an annual event. The second luncheon therefore took place on 8 May 1952 when Leopold Amery, PC, CH, Secretary of State for India and Burma in Churchill's war cabinet, spoke on the genealogy of today's ideologies, tracing the origins of communism [1636], and at the third, held on 7 May 1953, the guest of honour Sir Ronald Storrs, KCMG, gave some personal reminiscences of his time in the Middle East [1637].

At the fourth and final luncheon on 16 July 1954, Lord Hastings spoke about his family as an illustration of the interest taken in genealogy in this country [1638] and among those present were Sir Walter Peacock, former Keeper of the Records of the Duchy of Cornwall, the Deputy High Commissioner for Canada, and Dr Arthur Adams (1881-1960) [1639], the distinguished editor of the New England Historical and Genealogical Register and a Fellow since 1925 [1640]. Major Church resigned at the end of 1954 and no more luncheons were held, the Holborn Restaurant being demolished the following year.

However, to mark the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 the Society's lecture programme contained four talks by major authorities that had a direct bearing on the event and were ‘brilliantly successful’ the rooms being crowded on most occasions [1641]. On 21 January, Geoffrey White spoke on 'The Great Officers of State', on 18 February, Lawrence Tanner spoke on 'The Coronation Ceremonial', on 11 April, Anthony Wagner spoke on 'The Ceremonial Duties of the Heralds', and on 20 May, Hugh Stanford London (1884-1959), Norfolk Herald Extraordinary [1642], spoke on 'The Royal Arms' [1643]. Notification of those attending was required in advance because of the catering difficulties, tea being served after the talks.

In the winter of 1953-4 the programme of lectures was discontinued owing to the Society's preparations for its removal to new premises but in November highly popular visits were made to the Guildhall Library and the College of Arms, the former having to be repeated the following week [1644]. There were then visits to the City of London Record Office in 1954 [1645], two to Westminster Abbey Library in 1956 [1646], to the House of Lords’ Record Office and to the muniments at Hatfield House in 1957 [1647], to the County Record Office at Maidstone and Knowle in 1958 [1648], to the Bodleian Library in 1959 [1649], to Friends’ House, Euston Road in 1960 [1650], to Penshurst Place in 1963 [1651], to the National Army Museum at Sandhurst in 1965 [1652], to Boughton Monchelsea Place in 1967 [1653], to Waddesdon Manor in 1968 [1654], to Greenwich Palace and the National Maritime Museum in 1969 [1655], to The Vyne at Sherborne St John in 1970 [1656], and to Chartwell in 1972 [1657], but the following year the number of applicants for a projected visit to Petworth was less than the required forty and no more visits were organised for a number of years.

Major Church, who immediately saw the Society’s need for publicity, wrote in the Annual Report for 1950 that ‘much greater use would be made of the services available from the Society if they were more widely known’ [1658], and was responsible in 1951 for the publication of a little sheet that set out the Society's facilities and which was widely distributed together with a membership application form and details of a new edition of The Genealogists' Handbook which he had organised and published that year (for 1s 9d). He also printed a sheet showing the Society's research charges, then ten shillings a day and pro rata (specific searches being made for a shilling), the non-members paying double these rates [1659]. The charges for research for non-members (limited to work before 1837) were shortly after increased to 7s 6d an hour or two and a half guineas a day. Those doing their own work, now greatly increased in number (many coming to London for the Festival of Britain in 1951), were charged 7s 6d for three and a half hours [1660]. In December 1951, following what had been a difficult year for many, not least because of the rise in the cost of living, a bonus of one month’s salary was paid to all the staff, this appreciative gesture costing the Society £1,118-6-8 [1661].

As a result, the membership, which had fallen by six in Mrs Blomfield’s last year, now steadily increased and at the end of 1951, as Lord Mersey proudly announced to the AGM in May 1952, it had for the first time passed the 1,000 mark and was 1,009 [1662]. Church’s hard work and enthusiasm paid off and the numbers continued to increase, to 1,062 in 1952 (when he got some good publicity in the Daily Express) [1663] to 1,247 in 1953 and to 1,423 in 1954. It was, as the Annual Report for 1953 acknowledges, this steady increase in memberships, entrance fees and subscriptions that encouraged the Society to agree to take on the purchase of 37 Harrington Gardens that year with its likely total cost of £8,100 [1664], something that would have been quite inconceivable only a few years earlier.

Developments on Many Fronts, 1951-1954

An article on civil and parish registration in Scotland by Gerald Hamilton-Edwards appeared in the Magazine in March 1951 [1665] and later that year Brigadier Henry Alain Joly de Lotbiniere (1891-1974) completed his initial sorting into 279 folios of a large collection on Scottish families purchased in 1949, which Hamilton-Edwards had brought to the attention of the Society [1666]. The collection consisted of the working papers and notes of the Revd Walter Macleod (born in Edinburgh in 1832, the son of a joiner), who was originally a teacher but after marriage in 1867 developed a name as a record agent and editor for the Scottish Historical Society, particularly in the 1890s when Minister of the Original Secession Church in Edinburgh and where his unmarried daughters acted as his amanuenses. He and his son John (born in 1873) had done research for the great Alexander Graham Bell (died 1922) and John continued to practise in Edinburgh until the outbreak of the Second World War.

Large parts of this Collection were in great disorder and when in 1959 the Genealogical Society of Utah gave the Society, at that time very short of money for binding, £200, this was used to start the binding of the collection, a further £100 being added by Mr Earl Douglas (died 1989), of London, Ontario, in 1960 [1667]. Cregoe Nicholson took on the difficult task of attempting to put the papers into better order before they were bound, but he delayed dreadfully over it and in 1966 an appeal was made for someone else to complete the work [1668]. That appeal was renewed in 1969 and again in 1972, and in 1973 the Committee agreed that token sums might be paid from the fund if a sorter could be found [1669]. At the end of 1974 it was reported that twenty volumes of the papers had been bound and the fund exhausted though the bulk of the Collection remained unbound [1670].

An interesting article on 'The Genealogy of the Poor' by the economic historian Muriel Florence Lloyd Prichard in the Magazine in 1951 reverted to Charles Bernau's Some special studies in genealogy (1908) in which Bernau had suggested that the tracing of a family in the lower strata of society might be easier than tracing one in the upper middle classes. Lloyd Prichard taught at University College, London but in 1959 emigrated to New Zealand and was subsequently Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Auckland. She thought Bernau's book inaccurate in its account of the Poor Law and coy in its examples. She showed, perhaps in some cases for the first time, the great value of the records of apprenticeship, bastardy, and settlement and removal [1671].

In September 1951 Cregoe Nicholson wrote to the Magazine suggesting that the Committee on Monumental Inscriptions which had functioned in the early days of the Society should be revived, the Suffolk genealogist and antiquary Charles Partridge (died 1955), who had copied 36,000 inscriptions in some 300 Suffolk churchyards [1672], having once more brought the urgent need for their transcription to the notice of the Executive Committee [1673]. Nicholson thought that a new committee should be entrusted with the task of awakening interest amongst the members and charged with compiling a record of the whereabouts of all known copies of inscriptions [1674].

The Annual Report for 1951 indicates that thought had again been given to increasing the subscriptions but because of the inability to alter the subscriptions of existing members, the suggestion had been shelved, it being thought that the best hope of improving the finances was an increase in membership. It was then suggested that interest ‘could be aroused by the formation, particularly in villages, of study groups or of groups to copy parish registers and monumental inscriptions’. It was said that lectures by experienced genealogists could be arranged on application to the Secretary [1675]. I am not aware, however, that any applications were made at this time.

However, at the Annual Meeting in May 1952 it was reported that two committees had been formed to encourage the copying of monumental inscriptions and to investigate the possibilities of co-ordinating work on the compilation of school registers and generally creating a clearing house for information on schools [1676]. The first one flourished but the second sadly died an almost immediate death and surprisingly has never been revived. In 1952 Peter G. Summers appealed for assistance with the great survey of armorial funeral hatchments that he had just commenced for the Bath Heraldic Society at Kingswood School [1677] and in 1955 John Stone (1910-1956), a housemaster at Brentwood School, outlined the work that his boys were doing in copying local churchyards and suggested that a comprehensive plan was needed [1678].

The increased level of interest in matters of local history was further displayed in 1952 by the publication of the first issue of The Amateur Historian produced as a speculative venture and edited by Terrick V. H. FitzHugh (1907-1990), of Shepperton, a maker of film documentaries whose father had introduced him to the family pedigree in the 1920s and who joined the Society of Genealogists in 1943. Towards the end of the war when stationed in his ancestral county at Henlow he had visited the Record Office at Bedford. The archivist, Miss Joyce Godber, offered to recommend him for the job of her assistant as soon as he was demobbed, but as he later wrote her mention of the salary brought that project to an end! [1679]. For two and a half years FitzHugh published in The Amateur Historian articles by a remarkable group of young archivists and local historians as well as established academics, and aimed at active members of the local community. A Standing Conference for Local History had been founded under the aegis of the National Council for Social Service to promote the interests of local historians at national level in 1948 and it took over his journal in 1961, changing its name to The Local Historian. The Standing Conference, as described below, was itself transformed into the British Association for Local History in 1982.

As already mentioned a Parish Register Sub-Committee had been newly created in July 1951 and some progress was made with the transcription of parish registers, the Annual Report for 1952 drawing special attention to the useful additions that were finding their way onto the shelves as a result of the activities of that Committee, though the heavy cost of binding remained a major problem [1680]. In December 1952 Herbert Willis, the member of the Executive committee above-mentioned and himself a transcriber, appealed for further volunteers and began to list those registers where permission to transcribe had been obtained [1681]. As a result the receipt of 87 parish register transcripts was noted in 1953, including 28 Suffolk copies in manuscript [1682]. A review of Archibald Bennett's A guide for genealogical research (1951) in the Magazine in 1953 expressed astonishment that the Genealogical Society in Salt Lake City possessed no less than 34,610 rolls, each 100 feet long, of microfilm records, including 3,400 rolls of records from Great Britain and Ireland, and asked 'How long will it be before our own Society follows suit?' [1683].

The opposition of many clergy to transcription and to access to their registers by the Mormons was, however, still considerable. A ‘Country Priest’ who wrote to the Church Times in 1954 had entertained an American searcher for much of a day and gone to the trouble of obtaining registers from two other churches for which he was responsible, as well as giving her lunch. He had not been offered a fee and concluded that ‘this business is fast becoming a “racket”, and the sooner we stop it the better’. The Vicar of Alfreton, Derbyshire, wrote that ‘a further hazard’ were requests from the Genealogical Department of the British Mission which was collecting information for the purpose of ‘baptizing the dead’. His practice was to ask the enquirer to provide a certificate, countersigned by the vicar of his or her parish, that the information was not required for any Mormon ceremony. He felt ‘the whole business of searching registers for genealogical purposes to be a monumental waste of time’ [1684].

In December 1951 the Magazine printed an early article by Cecil ‘Harold’ Ridge (1890-1957) on the importance of genetics to genealogy [1685] which was commented upon at some length by Dr H. Lesley White in March 1952 [1686] but the subject received little attention and some years later in 1968 the then Editor, Lornie Leete-Hodge, asked for the views of members on this new field in which genealogy could, she thought, become 'of immense importance' [1687]. Francis Leeson responded about finger deformations that had helped to prove relationships and appealed for genealogists to record the physical aspects and blood groups of the families in which they were interested [1688].

John Beach Whitmore's A genealogical guide, the second standard list of printed pedigrees, which had been published in four parts by the Harleian Society between 1947 and 1953 was published as a single volume in 1953. Whitmore gave copies to many of his friends, as he had generously done with the separate parts, and Cregoe Nicholson nicely wrote that, ‘to people like myself, who always live in terror that some client will discover a printed pedigree which has been overlooked, it will mean that we can sleep in peace in future’ [1689]. George Sherwood, who of course remembered the appearance of Marshall’s Guide fifty years earlier, thought it ‘a fine piece of work’ [1690]. The pedantic Guy Harrison wrote that ‘nothing so generally useful to those engaged upon biographical research has been issued by the Harleian Society since it issued Musgrave’s ‘Obituary’, some 40 years ago!’ [1691].

Two years later Arthur Willis produced the first of the modern series of guides to ancestry tracing, Genealogy for Beginners (1955), which was warmly welcomed by Whitmore as 'written by a man who has learned and learned successfully from actual experience' [1692].

A second edition of Bethell Bouwens' Wills and their whereabouts was published, this time by the Society itself in 1951, at 12s 6d. It consisted of a reprint of the original edition with six pages of notes by Helen Thacker (1892-1977) which gave details of the movements of probate records since the War [1693]. In view of later developments I might mention here that the Society believed that Bouwens's executors had given it the copyright of the book, and the Society advertised that fact in the December 1953 issue of the Magazine, but no formal assignment of copyright had actually been made and it seems that the Society was actually only given the reprinting and distribution rights.

Other major steps forward came with the publication of the second edition of W. E. Tate's The Parish Chest (1951), much enlarged from the 1946 first edition, and with the publication of the Blue Paper, Abstracts of arrangements respecting registration of births, marriages and deaths in the United Kingdom, and the other countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations and in the Irish Republic (1952) which remained the standard work for many years.

In the United States the year 1950 saw the publication of the first edition of Frederick Lewis Weis', Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists who came to New England between 1623 and 1650 (1950)  which was reviewed by Anthony Wagner as a concise and useful key to the remarkable extent of the material then available. Wagner thought that more intensive and skilful effort had perhaps been given to the study of the English origins of these early New England settlers than to any other single class of genealogical problem [1694]. In England the first article about the nineteenth-century passenger lists of ships going to America, by the historian Dr Philip A. M. Taylor (1920-2003) of the University of Birmingham, appeared in the Magazine in 1956 [1695]. In 1965 when at Hull University he produced Expectations Westward: the Mormons and the emigration of their British converts.

In 1951, at the suggestion of the professional genealogist Cecil Warburton Brand (1886-1982), the Society re-started the old card index of 'Migrations' to include stray references to 'persons abroad, or in distant parts of the country' [1696], and to this Reginald Arthur Proctor Hare (died 1963) in South Africa contributed much material [1697].

In a different sphere, although the Business Archives Council had been set up in 1934, very few competent business histories had been published in England before the 1950s, but an important article on 'London Business House Histories' by the librarian Donovan Dawe (1915-1996) appeared in the Magazine in 1952, the second part drawing attention, I think for the first time, to the value of insurance records to genealogists [1698]. Also important was the publication by Burke's Peerage of Anthony Wagner's definitive The records and collections of the College of Arms (1952).

In 1953 Edgar Samuel (1912-1984), a bookseller in Finchley, wrote the first major article about Jewish sources in England [1699] and in March 1955 Susan Minet (1884-1976), the President of the Huguenot Society, gave perhaps one of the first talks specifically about 'Huguenot Records' [1700]. In another specialist field the major Commissioned Sea Officers of the Royal Navy 1660-1815 was produced by the National Maritime Museum in 1955 [1701].

A strain of more critical genealogy was also now raising its head. The year 1951 had seen the publication of the important Origins of some Anglo-Norman Families by Lewis C. Loyd (1875-1947), formerly of the Treasury Solicitor’s Department (as Harleian Society, vol. 103), and this had been followed by L. G. Pine's widespread excision of myths from the 1949 edition of Burke's Peerage. Although widely welcomed it, of course, caused great offence to the fifty or so families that saw several hundred years sliced off their pedigrees [1702]. The controversial Leslie Gordon Pine (1907-1987) had been appointed editor in 1946 [1703]. A few fables survived but further excisions in the 1953 edition wisely removed Lord St Davids claim to be ‘of the same tribe as Vortigern, King of Britain, paternally descended from Maximus, King of Britain and Emperor of Rome’, though his six generations of pedigree without dates still remains. However, the Wake family’s claim to descend from Hereward the Wake, rightly excised as nonsense in 1949, now re-appeared in a footnote as a mere matter of ‘controversy’. In 1953 an absurd prefatory article in the Peerage argued that it was open to the Queen ‘to bestow the titular dignity of King upon her consort, who would then become Philip II’ [1704].

On 9 April 1952, Pine as editor of Burke's Landed Gentry, gave a talk at the Society on 'The decline of the Landed Gentry' in which he blamed taxation and changing social conditions [1705]. More than half the families included in the 2,800 pages of the new 1952 edition, he said, were no longer 'landed' and he could not see new entrants as the products of the nationalized industries. However, there was great interest in the book, the first since 1939, and four thousand copies at eight guineas each had been ordered prior to publication. At the talk there was a display of book-plates by the two great collectors Charles Hall Crouch (died 1962) [1706] and Horace Edward Jones (died 1978).

Pine's little book Trace your ancestors was published at 8s 6d in 1953 and did much to popularise the subject. Cecil Brand, reviewing it in the Magazine, said 'For the production of a work calculated to lure the reader into that state of mind, known to us all, in which he will become a menace to his elderly relations and an object of suspicion to his friends, the Author is to be congratulated' [1707].

However, of Pine’s next book, They came with the Conqueror (1954), the Society commented that 'It is doubtful whether any genealogical work published in recent years has caused more controversy' [1708]. Anthony Wagner had reviewed it in the Times Literary Supplement in May and was answered by Pine saying that some of his statements were not true and that others were a perversion of the truth and appeared to be written in ignorance of the facts. Wagner replied in turn with some very acidic and damaging comments [1709]. It was unfortunate for Pine that this public dispute with Wagner partly revolved around a pedigree of the Marris family that Pine had included in the Landed Gentry and about which he had given interviews to the press [1710], but which was based on one registered at the Ulster Office which was demonstrably false [1711]. Pine’s journalism was no match for Wagner’s scholarship.

In 1955, somewhat late in the day, John Brooke-Little reviewed Pine's The Story of Heraldry (1952) for the Society, saying that many of his premises were untenable [1712] and thus once more drawing Pine’s considerable wrath [1713]. The bickering continued for some years. Every time a volume of Pine’s appeared, as with the 1956 edition of Burke's Peerage, Pine rose indignantly to rebut the slightest criticism [1714]. Many of his books, as Peter Spufford wrote of his Teach Yourself Heraldry and Genealogy (1957), unfortunately suffered from a haste-betraying carelessness [1715] and, I would add, a curious lack of sympathy with their subjects.

Sales of Lordships of Manors, 1954-1977

A surprising development of interest to genealogists and local historians in 1954, not envisaged when copyhold tenure in England was abolished in 1924, was the first sale in what later developed into a lucrative trade in the lordships of manors. Some sales have included extensive records and rights over manorial commons and wastes, but most have been little more than legal fictions evidenced by a fancy sale-catalogue, a typed conveyance and a banker’s receipt.

It all started with the sale of the ‘Beaumont Collection’ of lordships of manors formed by Joseph Beaumont (1827-1889) [1716] who, during an active life as a solicitor at Coggeshall in Essex, had acted as steward for many landowners and had begun to buy manors on his own account. At the time of his death he was the owner or steward of upwards of fifty, mostly in East Anglia. His son and partner, George Frederick Beaumont, F.S.A. (1856-1928) [1717], added to this collection until there were nearly a hundred. On 3 November 1954 the latter’s sons and executors offered twenty-seven lordships for sale by auction through Strutt & Parker Lofts & Warner in London and twenty-nine others by private treaty.

The sale of these ancient manors, their records and their owners ability to style themselves ‘Lord of the Manor of Blank’ (but not ‘Lord Blank’), gained considerable publicity, particularly in America, but the interest of many in the televised sale-room waned when it was announced to cheers and ‘not a few trans-Atlantic moans’ that the Master of the Rolls, who under the 1924 Act had the ‘charge and superintendence’ of the records, would not consent to any of them leaving the country [1718]. The archivists for Essex and East Suffolk urged their deposit in the appropriate record offices. However, the twenty-seven lots, relating to fourteen manors in Essex, eight in Suffolk and five in Norfolk, sold for a total of £9,760, the highest price paid being £525 for the manor of Beaumonds in Lindsey, Suffolk, the first to have been bought by Joseph Beaumont and now bought by a descendant who lived in Australia. The Times reported that most manors had been bought by interested local people but some were bought by agents acting for unknown persons. William Alfred Foyle (1885-1963), the Charing Cross Road bookseller, had bought five in Essex ‘to add to his collection of documents’ [1719].

A second sale of some twenty-nine manors mostly in the same counties took place on 7 December 1955 and included seven previously offered for sale by private treaty. Of the remainder all but two came from the Beaumont collection [1720]. An introduction to the sale catalogue said that the vendors were not aware of any ill results of the previous sale; it had stimulated public interest in old records and there had been some benefit to the communities involved as in one manor the greens had been tidied, in another a pavilion had been erected for the cricket club, and in another a village history had been written from the records. Only one manor had been sold by private treaty to an American.

There was a further sale of ten manors at Colchester by C. M. Stanford & Son in 1964, some again from the Beaumont collection, when the highest price paid (by the farmer of neighbouring land) was £1,275 for the Manor of Westhorpe Hall, Suffolk. The average price gained at the two earlier sales had been about £360, but on this occasion it was £1,042 10s. A single sale, that of the Manor of Lambourn in Berkshire, took place at Farringdon in July 1966 and achieved a record price of £1,400 [1721].

In 1964 the auctioneer had again to emphasise that these were not titles of honour or nobility and that they did not carry with them the right to a seat in the House of Lords [1722] but in March 1977 a Bill was introduced in the House of Lords by the 15th Earl of Kinnoull, the Vice-President of the National Association of Parish Councils, to protect village greens and ‘to put an end to the somewhat degrading spectacle of certain dealings in lordships’. One lordship, he said, that of Great Snoring had been offered as a raffle in Chicago. Lord Sandford agreed, saying that their transfer to absentees and outsiders ’was an affront to the dignity and pride of local communities’. The Bill was amended and had its Second Reading in May but was never introduced in the Commons [1723].

Move to Harrington Gardens, 1954

It was well known during the last years of Kathleen Blomfield's period as Secretary that the lease of the room on the first floor at Chaucer House, taken in 1933, would expire in March 1954 and that the rapidly expanding Library Association which occupied the rest of the building had decided that it needed the space. In any case, as the Association’s official history says, the building, ‘after twenty years of heavy wear and tear, accentuated by war strain and damage, was not only being outgrown; it was beginning to show its age” [1724]. As mentioned above the growth in the Society’s collections was similarly demanding that something be done.

At the Society a re-housing committee was formed early in 1948 and worries for the future began in earnest. Unlike those of the Association (for which the University of London provided alternative premises in 1965), the Society's finances were in a deplorable and desperate state. Investments held since before the War totalled £524 and to these had been added £200 in 1943 (when the printed Balance Sheet was incorrectly totalled), £100 in 1944 and £300 in 1947, so that they now totalled £1,117 [1725]. Any increase in the subscriptions of existing members was precluded by paragraph 22 of the Companies Act 1948 when it was found that of the members 525 were paying old rates: ten Fellows were paying one guinea, fifteen Fellows were paying two guineas, 144 Town Members (including Cregoe Nicholson) were paying two guineas and 356 Country Members were paying one guinea.

A Special Reserve Fund, instituted in late 1948 to meet the cost of acquiring and equipping new premises [1726], in May 1949 totalled only £88 [1727] and £103 in September [1728], but it was thought that ‘several thousand pounds’ would be needed just for the removal and installation of the library in any new quarters [1729]. The possibility of issuing debentures was debated at the Annual Meeting in 1948 but Lord Mersey was opposed to the idea, believing that this was 'really inviting members to make a present of any money that was so subscribed', and suggesting that the income from covenanted subscriptions (£376 in 1948, but including £96 unclaimed in 1946/7) [1730] be set aside to form the basis of a fund [1731].

However, it was optimistically reported in September 1949 that a possible building had been found and that a draft lease was being prepared, it being hoped that a move might take place in November or December [1732]. The proposed new premises were described as 'not far distant from the British Museum and the Public Record Office' but discussions dragged on into December when the property was further described as situated 'northwards from our present rooms, two miles by road from Euston Station' but very well served by road and underground transport [1733]. The name of the building was not given in the Magazine but it was later revealed in the Annual Report as, perhaps surprisingly, the picturesque Canonbury Tower with its adjoining King Edward's Hall [1734], described as Islington’s most famous historic building and dating largely from the sixteenth century [1735].

During the course of the protracted negotiations the Secretary had received 'many expressions of regret that premises lying north of our present rooms were in contemplation' [1736] but in any case it had become increasingly clear that the maintenance of the building and its unsuitable layout, which would have required increased staffing, were more than the Society could afford and early in 1950 negotiations were broken off [1737]. George Sherwood wrote dispiritedly to Beach Whitmore, ‘Why can’t the Minister of Education see the immense value of our work and relieve our distress?’ [1738]. Two years later the restored Canonbury Tower was leased to the Tavistock Repertory Company [1739].

At the end of 1949 the Special Reserve Fund stood at £466. Sherwood’s letter to Whitmore said that he was struggling with the manuscript accessions ‘as they threaten to swamp us’ and the lack of shelf space was now causing the Executive Committee dismally to discuss placing into storage the ‘less useful books and of those containing information which is duplicated elsewhere in the library’ [1740]. Although the Annual Meeting in 1950 was overshadowed by the impending departure of Mrs Blomfield, the Honorary Treasurer, Sherwood, again stressed that 'additional funds must be forthcoming if the Society was to go ahead' [1741]. It was an ominous comment and early the following year Sherwood, who must in any case have been embarrassed by the repercussions of the Committee for Microfilming’s separate account, resigned and was replaced by able Sir William Elderton. In March 1951 the search for new premises continued and it was reported that the Special Reserve Fund stood at £538-15-6 but, in anticipation of a possible increase in the cost of steel, thirty steel chairs with canvas seats at £1-7-2 each and twenty with upholstered seats at £2-6-3 had been purchased for use at lectures and it was hoped that the members would care to donate a chair each [1742]. Only £17-10-11 was received for this latter purpose! [1743 ].

At the Annual Meeting on 14 June 1951 the President, Lord Mersey, said that there were no reserves - or practically nothing, and that the Society did not have the resources to pay a good or increased rent, 'it was no good not speaking the truth' [1744]. The annual rent at Chaucer House was then £350. However, Major Church’s Annual Report played down the problems, saying that as the lease did not expire until 1954 and as there had lately been an increase in the number of properties for sale and on lease, ‘the question of acquiring new premises is not at present one of supreme urgency’ [1745]. In 1952, in spite of its cramped conditions, Lord Mersey reported that he had even asked if there was any possibility of an extension of the present lease and that a member, who it later transpired was Thomas William Catesby (died 1960) [1746], had offered to loan £2,000 at four per cent interest towards the cost of new premises against the security of the Society's assets, though at the previous Annual Meeting Lord Mersey, himself a book collector, had doubted that the books were the type of security acceptable to a bank [1747].

In order that there should be no doubt as to the security for loans from members the Committee had in fact meanwhile decided to obtain an expert valuation of the books, manuscripts and typescripts and George A. Warne of the booksellers Walford Brothers at 69 Southampton Row, WC1, had kindly undertaken the task [1748]. The figures that he came up with, £4,195 for the printed books and a 'safe figure' of £4,000 for the manuscripts and typescripts, together form the basis of the Society's present-day valuation for its Balance Sheet, additions since then being included at cost, though the valuation for insurance purposes is, of course, much higher. The latter was in 1952, £4,370 for the books and £16,380 for the manuscripts and typescripts [1749].

With the improval in the Society’s financial situation under Major Church, the search for alternative premises continued, some thinking that a freehold might be found of which part might be let to produce income, but which might later be taken over as the Society expanded. With that in mind Colonel Somerset Hopkinson, a member of the re-housing committee, drew attention to a large Victorian house with vacant flats on its upper floors at 37 Harrington Gardens, near Gloucester Road Station in South Kensington, which had been unoccupied for a year [1750], during which time the original glass door handles had all been stolen. The initial omens were not good. The area was zoned for residential purposes, the house was only available on a 16-year lease (to 24 June 1970) and its situation, relatively far from the British Library and the Public Record Office, was thought by some to be a great disadvantage. Some twenty-two months of negotiation followed, the initial talks being conducted by the Chairman, William Cotton [1751].

By the time of the Annual Meeting on 7 May 1953 the membership had further increased and the finances were consequently in a somewhat better shape. A Defence Regulation that prohibited possession of the house had been repealed and a refusal to allow occupation under the Town and Country Planning Act had been successfully appealed to the Minister of Housing. Two weeks later Sherwood wrote to Whitmore that he looked forward to the move to new premises and that it would be to Harrington Gardens, quite near to Whitmore in Coleherne Court, saying that it would mean a ‘big increase in membership and a great improvement in the amenities’. ‘Praise is due’, he wrote, ‘to our excellent Secretary’ [1752]. At the Annual Meeting, Dr T. Hare had said that he thought the proposed move 'retrograde and regrettable' as he considered South Kensington 'difficult of access'. Lord Mersey replied that if they stayed on a yearly tenancy at Chaucer House the rent would probably be £1,000 p.a. [1753] That was out of the question.

By the end of 1953 it was reckoned that in addition to the purchase price of £3,000 there would be the cost of converting the three upper floors into a flat and maisonette and the strengthening of a floor, improvements, repairs and repointing of brickwork totalling £4,300, as well as legal fees and the costs of removal, another £800, making a total of £8,100. At that time, if the loans promised by members were included, the Society had about £7,318 available [1754]. The ground rent would be £47-10-0 p.a. and the landlords had given an undertaking that they would renew the lease for sixty or seventy years in eight years' time.

In December 1953 the President (Lord Mersey), Cregoe Nicholson as Chairman of the Executive Committee and Sir William Elderton as Honorary Treasurer jointly signed a letter to the members saying that it had been agreed to buy a short lease on the house and setting out the Society’s requirements and the terms and servicing of the suggested loans. Perhaps to emphasise the urgency, the appeal letter was, surprisingly, sent from the Society’s new home.

To finance the move the Society issued 5% debentures to members in units of £50, repayable over sixteen years. By March 1954, £4,350 had been subscribed, though it was reckoned that another £1,500 to £2,000 was probably needed. The flats upstairs were an important part of the equation, they being let through local agents, that on the second floor on a repairing lease at £400 p.a. exclusive, and the maisonette with its many rooms in the high pitched roof similarly at £350 p.a. [1755]. The Society was paying £350 p.a. rent at Chaucer House but there would now be the extra cost of a ‘porter’, estimated at £320 p.a. The financial arrangements backing the move fell mainly on the Honorary Treasurer, Sir William Elderton (1877-1962), an actuary and statistician of world repute who had just retired from the Presidency of Equitable Life. He resigned once they were completed and was elected a Vice-President the following year [1756]. Cregoe Nicholson thought him 'the best Treasurer we have ever had' [1757].

The energetic and competent Major Church now found himself organising the move. The offices at Chaucer House closed at 5 p.m. on Saturday, 20 March (the day the lease ended) and opened at Harrington Gardens at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 23 March, but the library took a while to sort out and closed from 5 p.m. on Wednesday, 17 March, until 10 a.m. on Saturday, 27 March [1758]. The move and the genealogical value of the collections were the subject of a most useful report in The Times [1759] (inspired by Nicholson). The move itself, in fact, cost less (£125) than the dilapidations (£185) at Chaucer House, but an anonymous donor gave a welcome £500 to the Special Reserve Fund [1760] and the removal vans were provided by Marc Fitch’s firm. The members helped greatly in the packing and unpacking of 370 chests of books in 'Operation Backbend' and in their arrangement on the new shelves [1761]. Cregoe Nicholson, then Chairman of the Executive, who had planned the position and erection of the library shelving, used to say that he had himself carried the whole of the Great Card Index in its 800 trays on many trips from the vans to the first floor of the building. Colonel Percy-Smith, who had been unwell for some weeks, sent a telegram on 20 March, ‘Wishing secretary, staff and members success and happiness in new premises’. The library re-opened in its new home at 10 am on Saturday, 27 March; the office had only been closed for one day on Monday, 22 March.

Colonel Somerset Hopkinson (1899-1988) and his wife Josephine (nee Addison; 1902-1989) took the keenest interest in the building's furnishing and care. He had been a member since 1919 (when he and his mother Mabel both joined the Society) and was on the Executive Committee for many years. His wife, a keen genealogist and with administrative experience in the War, had been elected the first woman member of the Executive 'to represent the lady members', as proposed by Colonel Percy-Smith, in 1948 [1762], and they regularly drove to meetings in London from Llanvihangel Court in Monmouthshire. Other members of the House Committee were also greatly involved. The highly practical Air Chief Marshal Sir Christopher Courtney (1890-1976) [1763], a member since 1933, showed a surprising knowledge of soft furnishings. Marc Fitch's wife Ismini (died 1999, aged 93) chose a carpet for the Members' Room that lasted fifty years. Helen Thacker (1892-1977), a former searcher specialising in Sussex wills [1764] and now working at the Principal Probate Registry, also represented the lady members, and John Stone (1910-1956) [1765] the House Master at Brentwood School mentioned above, was also active.

Cregoe Nicholson, as Chairman of the Executive, had issued a separate appeal for money with which to furnish the members’ room in February 1954, suggesting that each member contribute ten shillings [1766]. It was an appeal noteworthy for a most dismal picture of the house, but by June 1954 it had raised £704-8-5 and the Society was buying Ismini’s carpet and the curtains, chairs and tables used for many years here and at Charterhouse Buildings [1767]. Another member, Captain Horace Charles Couldrick (1904-1956), FRIBA, of Sutton, acted as honorary architect in connection with the alterations and repairs to the house [1768], and although William Cotton had told the Annual Meeting in 1953 that it was sufficiently strong to take the weight of the library [1769], in fact the frame of the back section had to be strengthened by driving steel girders through the ornate plaster strapwork of the drawing room ceiling which was re-cast around them. London County Council insisted on a fire escape to the neighbouring building and, remembering the heating problems at Chaucer House, a new central-heating boiler was installed [1770], the old one, I was told, doing little more than heat the pavement in front of the house.

Number 37 Harrington Gardens had been part of the Alexander Estate, some twenty acres of market gardens developed between 1870 and 1883, which passed from James Brace Alexander to his only child, Sybil, the wife of Lord George Campbell (1850-1915), the fourth son of the 8th Duke of Argyll, and thence to their two daughters, both of whom had been sympathetic to the Society's needs: Joan (1887-1960) who was unmarried and Enid (1892-1964) who became Mrs Anstruther and later Mrs Holland. This particular house is one of a very handsome and picturesque pair, now Nos. 35 and 37 Harrington Gardens, which with others in the area, all separately designed, are said to 'represent the extreme point of late-Victorian architectural individualism'. They had been designed by Ernest George and Peto in a seventeenth-century Dutch or German style and built in 1880-3 for Walter Richard Cassels, a literary gentleman, art collector and sceptical theologian, formerly in the East India trade, at a cost of £13,272. No 37 passed in the 1890s to the Vaughan Morgan family, the occupiers until 1953. The neighbouring house, No 39, with 'a hearty flamboyance unexampled in previous town houses' was built for the dramatist W. S. Gilbert with money made, it is said, from Patience [1771]. The ship on the uppermost gable was not HMS Pinafore as many supposed but an allusion to the supposed descent of the family from Sir Humphrey Gilbert.

There was a forecourt behind handsome iron railings with parking, about which there was frequent argument, for two or three cars. Between the two wings of the red-brick building with its terracotta panels, high hipped roof, tall gables and rows of tall leaded casements, was a paved forecourt designed to hold myrtles and other plants in tubs (as it does today but did not in the Society's time), the entrance to No 37 being through an outer porch with heavy pillars, a mosaic floor and a long sgraffito panel depicting scenes of life in 'Merry England'. A small dark inner porch lit by a lantern led through double doors with painted glass panels into the oak-panelled hall, with a red, green and gold lincrusta paper above, with the receptionist's desk, a brass-bound mahogany telephone apparatus being to one side on the deep windowsill. A specially constructed display unit on which to show the very few books for sale, was given by Professor R. C. Gale in 1955, and filled a recess which matched the recessed door to the drawing room, it having space for the storage of books behind the display. Behind the reception desk was a ladies cloakroom, panelled in dark mahogany. An impressive staircase with richly carved wooden panels, the newel posts decorated with mythical beasts, occupied much of the central space of the house and was divided from the back stairs by an internal window from which the painted glass had been removed in the War and replaced with bombproof glass.

The long drawing room at the back of the house, overlooking the garden and panelled in grey-green with mauve silk above, we filled with high bookcases, library tables being positioned in the window bays. At one end the library catalogue stood in the hooded stone fireplace with the librarian's desk nearby; at the other end there was a small conservatory with a door into the garden. As mentioned above the lively strapwork ornament to the ceiling here was re-cast around strengthening girders. The main rooms of the house were now named after former Presidents of the Society and this became Room Raglan.

The only other room on the ground floor was the large dining room at the front, fully panelled in dark oak, with a gold panelled ceiling and a low gallery over the outer and inner porch. Here and elsewhere in the building the radiators were hidden behind ornamental copper repousse reliefs. This room, in which had hung Cassels' fine collection of paintings, initially became the Members' Room and the usual series of six winter lectures was held here, the green steel stacking chairs mentioned above (and not at all comfortable!) being brought out from under the stairs and the low arm chairs on each occasion being removed to the ends of the library bays. The first talk held in the room on 6 October 1954 was by Sir Hilary Jenkinson (1882-1961) [1772], late Deputy Keeper of the Public Records, who spoke on Jamaican records [1773].

On the first floor a large landing over the hall contained more bookcases, a section being initially shielded off with a screen to make an office for a research assistant and typist. The long runs of peerages placed here resulted in it being called, by the staff at least, 'Snobs Corner'. At the front of the building over the Members' Room was the former billiard-room. This room, called Room Tweeddale, contained the Document Collection and the Card Indexes. At the back of the house, originally Cassels' library but later divided into two rooms, the smaller one became the Secretary’s Office and the larger one Room Farrer, again with bookcases and library tables, around which evening committee meetings were normally held.

Down in the vaulted basement, reached only by the back stairs, the original kitchen with the new boiler became Room Stamp and housed the family histories. A large white cupboard here contained all the unbound parish register transcripts. The former housekeeper's room with its leaded sink and baize-lined safe became the Staff Room, the safe receiving the growing microfilm collection. Nearby a little bedroom with green and white wallpaper, perhaps by William Morris, became the Overseas Room and housed the microfilm reader. A central passageway had the Gentleman's Magazine and Notes and Queries on shelving given, after his death in 1957, in memory of John Beach Whitmore. The scullery was converted into a gentleman's lavatory and the former servants' hall and butler's room into a small flat for a resident housekeeper, Florence Moss, and her husband George, who acted as caretaker. There were various damp cellars under the forecourt and two large wine-bins.

The house had a decidedly club atmosphere, tea being served in the members' room every day at 4 pm when a bell was rung in the hall. Following a decision of the Executive Committee in February 1955, however, smoking was only allowed in the members’ and staff rooms. The tenants of the flats had access via the main staircase but the rooms were locked at night and the keys taken to the housekeeper. Apart from problems with the right to park cars in the forecourt, there were also squabbles about the keys to the garden behind the house (access to which was through the library), the garden to which the Society paid a rate being on the opposite side of the road. There was a post box outside the house, a post office a block away, and several banks and shops in nearby Gloucester Road.

Some eight months after the Society settled into its new home, in November 1954, the energetic Secretary, Major Church, unexpectedly resigned. He became a Member the following year and died at Stewkley, Buckinghamshire, in 1973. During his four-year tenure the membership had expanded considerably and his organisational skills in the move and with the popular luncheons had been much appreciated [1774]. In the difficult period immediately after Church's resignation Mr H. Hindley (I believe at the suggestion of Sir Christopher Courtney) was appointed Acting Secretary pending the appointment of a new person and was credited with overhauling the office administration. He continued to assist until the end of April 1955 [1775], the Annual Report saying that ‘his services were of great value to the Society’ [1776]. For two years the Society was in deficit and sadly short of staff and Sir Christopher Courtney worked many hours in the office helping to sort out the subscriptions and deeds of covenant [1777]. A gift of books following the death of Percival Boyd in 1955 and a further large consignment from Day Kimball accounted for the unusually large number - 847 - received that year [1778].

With a paid librarian the Society was now able to borrow books for its members through the National Central Library and some thirty books were borrowed in this way in 1956 in addition to the 721 other books borrowed that year [1779] though the wrapping of parcels was never a popular library task. In 1957 in addition to those books received through the NCL there were thirty more to be sent to other libraries, a quid pro quo that the deprived members did not always appreciate [1780]. In 1958 963 volumes were borrowed, of which 162 were sent by post [1781], those numbers being 1,002 and 107 in 1959 [1782]. It was fortunate that the Post Office was just at the end of the road. At Harrington Gardens the outgoing post was stamped by the receptionist but the parcels were always taken to the Post Office by the Librarian or his or her assistant.

The generous Professor R. C. Gale in 1955 had also presented a foolscap Contoura Portable Photocopier costing £20 10s, our first, for use in the Society's rooms. A battery-operated Contoura was being advertised at that time as 'admirable for taking extracts from parish registers' and could be had for £5 (including batteries) [1783]. The machine could, however, only be used in indirect or subdued light, the exposures took fourteen seconds each and the pages had to be developed later. It was consequently not often used and two years later, as I well remember, we were instead regularly taking books needing to be photocopied across London to the old firm of R. B. Fleming & Co Ltd, Technical Photographers, in the basement of Africa House, Kingsway, where Photostats cost three shillings each.

Gerald Hamilton-Edwards, Secretary, 1954

Major Church's successor was Major Gerald Hamilton-Edwards, TD, MA, FLA (1906-1987) [1784], a benign slightly portly figure, who took up the post of Secretary on 10 January 1955, giving up that of South-West Regional Librarian for Devon [1785]. He had been a member since 1942, having, as he once wrote, been 'caught upon the intriguing web of genealogy' by overhearing a chance remark of a student at the School of Librarianship at London University who was telling another student that one could trace one's ancestors through the wills at Somerset House [1786]. He had been born Gerald Kenneth Savery Edwards, the son of an officer in the Royal Marines, and assumed the surname Hamilton-Edwards in 1944 as a descendant of the Hamiltons of Muirhouse and Bardannoch. Educated at Brighton College and Keble College, Oxford, where he had taken a Diploma in Librarianship, he had travelled extensively as tutor to two American families and he had combined teaching and library work with free-lance journalism. He was a likeable man with a quiet sense of humour, interested in genealogical research, but unfortunately not at all business-like in the office. Decisive he was not. Indeed an obituary in the Daily Telegraph described him as a 'mild-mannered, rather bumbling bespectacled bachelor, very much in the mould of the old-fashioned schoolmaster'. As his later life showed he was much more at home in the congenial social atmosphere of clubs and colleges.

Hamilton-Edwards had, only in 1954, lectured at the Society on ‘Naval records and naval pedigree’. It was a subject that interested Nicholson who had also had West Country connections and together this probably accounts for Hamilton-Edwards’s appointment but the Annual Report said, ‘It is expected also that … greater concentration on research will result in increased income from that source’ [1787]. That expectation, perhaps unwise in the first place, was far from fulfilled.

Hamilton-Edwards had written two books about families in Plymouth and had already done some radio work when on 18 January 1955 the Society first featured in a television programme, 'Tracing your Pedigree', featuring the heraldic artist Claire Evans [1788] and Michael E. B. Leader (1915-1998) an actor who was also an authority on Irish genealogy. Gerald Hamilton-Edwards and Miss Evans then represented the Society in a further television programme on 1 February [1789]. Spending time on such things so soon after his appointment did not go down at all well with some at the Society! In April the Executive Committee decided that henceforth he should attend all sub-committee meetings. The publicity resulting from the television programmes unfortunately generated correspondence with which the staff were unable to cope and in May the Executive Committee agreed that the Secretary should not again appear on television. An edict then went out that no member of staff should communicate with the press unless they had the permission of the Chairman of the Executive Committee!

George Sherwood’s later years, 1945-58

During the War George Sherwood had described himself on his letterhead as 'Record Searcher and Archivist (Family History): undertakes the testing, "vetting" and straightening out of the pedigrees of the middle class' and after the War he advertised 'Ancestors traced: descent and kinship proved', 'Shots at "Seize Quartiers", two guineas' [1790]. He was elected a Vice President at the Annual Meeting in 1947 [1791]. He resigned as Honorary Treasurer at the Annual Meeting in June 1951 when many tributes were paid to him. Cregoe Nicholson said that 'if anyone could claim to have made the Society' it was Sherwood, but he answered with great humility saying that genealogy had been his hobby and life interest and, therefore, there was no special credit due to him [1792]. He had, in 1949, printed a pamphlet, This is Genealogy, in which he had set out his ancestry in a long whimsical poem [1793] and earlier he had written of his Oxford relative the coach proprietor Richard Costar and 'the pleasure it is to recall old coaching days, ways and associations and the delights of the countryside before the days of steam and motor cars' [1794]. A certain whimsicality was always apparent in his letters and speech. He encouraged an enquirer during the First World War by saying, ‘Pursue a vigorous policy; waiting for something to turn up is no more successful in this than in any other spheres of human activity’, and to another about Town Depositions, ‘There’s fun in many of them, too. We must get our fun where we can’ [1795].

Sherwood had continued throughout to tend the Document Collection, latterly coming from his home at Brockley three days a week [1796]. He had his usual deep armchair in Room Tweeddale at Harrington Gardens in which he snoozed in the afternoons. His advertisement in March 1954 said that he was 'Informative, educative, sincere' [1797]. However, with increasing age after 1955 he rarely visited the Society and Mrs Sherwood took over all the work of sorting collections and filing documents in 1956 [1798] and she represented him when Lord Mountbatten was elected President the following year [1799]. I remember well how she would relay difficult questions to 'Mr Sherwood' as she always called him, sometimes to be answered with his well-known deep-voiced exclamation, 'Fools!' He celebrated his 90th birthday on 22 December 1957 when Cregoe Nicholson visited him and conveyed the congratulations of the Executive Committee [1800]. He died on 22 February 1958 in his 91st year [1801].

Cregoe Nicholson’s involvement, 1953-57

The years immediately following the move to Harrington Gardens in 1954 were very unsettled ones for various reasons and not always because of the shortage of money. Cregoe Nicholson was Chairman of the Executive Committee throughout the years 1953-56 and continued to have great influence well into the 1960s. He was a highly energetic man whom many outsiders considered the very embodiment of selfless interest in the Society, but following the removal of the strong personalities of Kathleen Blomfield and Major Church, personal vendettas and intrigue became his second nature. His influence, together with that of an inner circle of friends on the committees, was unfortunately paramount and there were consequently several changes of staff.

Cregoe Donaldson Percy Nicholson (1885-1968) [1802], the son of a Devon parson latterly 'without cure', had joined the Society in 1920 and, as has been noted, soon became active in many of its affairs, particularly with the Magazine, being elected a member of the Executive Committee and a Fellow in 1924. He had begun a career in life insurance but had become interested in its history and development. Making use of early newspapers, he was fascinated by their possible use for genealogy. In 1928 he spoke to the Society on 'The genealogical value of the early English newspaper' and in 1934 he expanded the talk and published it separately in a booklet with that name, leaving his profession and setting up as a private searcher specializing in newspaper research at 11 Lincoln's Inn Fields and maintaining a 'Newspaper Continuous Research List' [1803]. His usual reply to any genealogical question was, 'Have you looked at the newspapers?' and then more practically (having wasted much time which could not be charged to the client) echoing Horace Round, ‘Have you looked at the map?’.

Nicholson was also a spare time amateur archaeologist and had worked with Sir Mortimer Wheeler at St Albans in the 1930s. He had made a name for himself following the discovery of the important Roman villa at Lullingstone in Kent when in 1949 thousands of fragments of painted plaster were found in a basement room there, having fallen from the walls of the room above during a fire which had destroyed the building in the late fourth or early fifth century (and which incidentally sometimes changed the colour of the frescoes), and it was Nicholson who for many years worked part-time on this gigantic discoloured jigsaw puzzle and discovered its Christian significance [1804].

Now in his early seventies and with signs of Parkinson's disease, Cregoe Nicholson involved himself in everything at the Society. Nothing was done without his knowledge or consent. He would 'see to' all things but, in reality, was no longer able to do so. The wall-plaster was neglected. Staff came and went at his personal whim, letters remained unanswered, research was delayed, and the Magazine, of which he had taken on the editorship in June 1954, became long overdue. He came to the Society and was 'there nearly every day until quite late' [1805] having a share of the large office table and being a continual irritation and obstacle to those who tried to work around him.

However, for some years after the move Nicholson’s friends who regularly used the British Museum Library continued to meet fairly regularly for tea on Saturdays at a café in Museum Street which any chronicle of this period must mention. At this ‘tea club’, which I seem to remember was active until about 1960, Charles Hall Crouch and Horace Jones swapped and discussed book-plates. The generous Beach Whitmore with his ex-army satchel for his papers came regularly until his sudden death in 1957, Cregoe Nicholson and his friend Jack Bird were usually there and so was the eminent book-binder Bernard Middleton who had been appointed advisor to the Society in February 1957 and was responsible for the binding of the Society’s distinguished visitors’ book. He had earlier specially bound for presentation to the Duchess of Gloucester the Magazine articles on her ancestry [1806]. John Blight and others occasionally came. Later, of course, the cafes in Gloucester Road began to take precedence and several of us became particularly fond of Casa Cura or ‘Mary’s’ in Lenthall Mews next to the Station.

Financial Problems, 1955-56

Unfortunately Hamilton-Edwards collected a good deal of research for which the fees were paid in advance but he seemed incapable of finalising any report, being, of course, it was said, far too busy with the press! The Annual Report for 1955 noted that there had been an intake of about 300 new cases but that the profit had been less than £200 [1807]. The profit improved to about £300 in 1956 [1808] but the large backlog that had been created was still being worked off two years later. The Honorary Treasurer who had taken the place of Sir William Elderton was Reginald Gaston Swann (1906-1995), Assistant Staff Manager of Lloyd's Bank, who was co-opted to the Executive in September 1954 [1809] and formally elected Treasurer on 19 October 1954 [1810]. By June 1955 he was extremely unhappy at the financial position and, not being able to give greater time to the Society's problems, was anxious to resign [1811], recommending that the research be put on a proper basis, that subscription rates be revised (to this Nicholson was much opposed), and that salary and magazine costs be cut and economy in small things enforced [1812]. There were some unpleasant scenes in the committees. In July 1955, after only six months, Hamilton-Edwards gave notice and left early in October [1813] and in September the Honorary Treasurer, Swann, resigned from everything, the Annual Report attributing his resignation to ‘pressure of business’ [1814]. The final straw with Hamilton-Edwards seems to have been that he had allowed members to become Life Members by paying ten times their annual subscriptions [1815], a figure that was considered far too low. The young Colin R. R. Bowden, BSc(Econ), born in 1931 and involved with the Institute of Historical Research, who started as a part time bookkeeper in the evenings at ten shillings an hour [1816], was appointed Secretary pro tem in October 1955 [1817] but after helping with the research he left early the following year.

The Executive Committee had given Nicholson 'full powers as Managing Director' and he set about cutting waste in the office [1818]. The situation for everyone else was intolerable. Not surprisingly he paid no tribute to Hamilton-Edwards in the December 1955 Magazine which merely noted that the Secretary had resigned and the Annual Report, whilst praising Mr Hindley for his assistance earlier in the year, merely said without comment that Hamilton-Edwards had left [1819]. The latter’s intervention at the AGM the following year to say that 'the late Secretary' (i.e. himself) had in fact given three months’ notice was given short shrift, though a very warm tribute was paid to Nicholson for working 'seven days a week' [1820]. The arguments as to whether genealogists can under any circumstances make good administrators or are always un-business-like that this period and the following six years epitomised continue to resound in my ears.

After Hamilton-Edwards, one of those who suffered most from the interference of Cregoe Nicholson was Francis ('Frank') Walter Bennett (1906-1970), the Secretary who succeeded him at the end of November 1955 [1821]. Bennett had a war record and only one arm. He had no pretence to be a genealogist but was a highly competent bookkeeper and the nicest of men. The Annual Report for 1956 credits him with having introduced considerable improvements in the management of the Society [1822] and he continued his careful work quietly in the background, latterly assisted by John Phillips, until 1959. The Executive Committee in January 1957 agreed that he was not obliged to attend all sub-committee meetings.

Sir William Elderton had quickly found a successor to Swann as Treasurer in the respected Victor George Charles Callaway (1905-1980), a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries and Secretary to the University Life Assurance Company, who was co-opted to the Executive Committee on 20 September 1955 [1823]. By November 1955 he had compiled a memorandum and an urgent draft letter which he proposed be sent immediately to the members. These went before the Executive Committee in December but were opposed by the Chairman, Cregoe Nicholson, and not agreed. The memorandum had noted that the subscriptions had not been increased since 1945 and were currently three guineas for Fellows and Town Members, two guineas for Country Members and a guinea for Overseas Members. No Associate or Corresponding Associate Members had been elected since September 1928, but five survived from before that date. Callaway calculated that, allowing for deaths and resignations since the survey made in 1948, if the 'veteran' members could be persuaded to increase their payments to the current rates, the Society would receive about £500 a year in additional income. He also noted that of the current members only 250 had signed Deeds of Covenant and that if a further 250 with an average subscription of two guineas could be persuaded to do so, that would allow the Society to reclaim tax of about £400 a year. As mentioned an appeal for members to enter into seven-year covenants had been made by Lord Mersey at the Annual General Meeting in 1946 and it had been repeated by circulating the whole membership with the appropriate Deed of Covenant and Banker’s Order forms in November 1953 but with little result, by 1955 only 250 members had covenanted their subscriptions.

The Executive Committee took no action, though in April 1956 it agreed to set up a reserve fund. However, on 16 August 1956 there was a considerable argument about the Society’s financial position at the Annual Meeting, chaired by Russell Muirhead. Cregoe Nicholas told the meeting that three years before they had been 'within an ace of winding up the Society', its resources having been strained to breaking point, but they had come through and were now on the road to success [1824]. However, William C. Blackburn (1885-1973), of Staines, an insurance manager, said that the Society was not paying its way and he was supported by Sir Stanley Wyatt. Both emphasised the immediate need for a reserve fund to meet the likely costs when the lease came to an end in sixteen years. It was a point that Sir Christopher Courtney, elected to the Executive Committee in 1953, would return to again and again. The move had been ambitious and imaginative but there were difficult times ahead. Blackburn said that a fund to pay off the debentures and for the maintenance of the building was required and that about £500 a year would be needed, suggesting that the subscriptions be increased. Sir Stanley Wyatt agreed and so did Gerald Hamilton-Edwards but Peter Spufford said that the younger members would not be able to afford an increase and that the charges for research for non-members should be increased. He thought that it was not a proper function of the Society to do research for non-members [1825], a valid point but odd coming from one employed in the research department!

Again no action was taken but in October it was agreed [1826] that the search fees for those non-members who came to do their own work, strangely little publicised and not mentioned in the Magazine, should be increased to 10s 6d for half a day or 17s 6d for a full day, and that the Entrance Fee for new members should be increased from one to one and a half guineas, both as from 1 January 1957 [1827]. One hundred and ninety-four new members were elected in 1956, a net increase of 77, bringing the total to 1,638, and the salaries of the administrative staff were increased by £300 [1828].

However, partly because of the financial position Nicholson gave up the Chairmanship of the Executive Committee in 1956 and persuaded the wealthy businessman Marc Fitch (1908-1994), who had been co-opted to the Executive in 1954, to take on the task in his stead. Fitch had established the Marc Fitch Fund in 1956. He had a passionate interest in genealogy and had been a member of various committees, being a long-standing friend of Anthony Wagner. However, Fitch told me that he had been put forward by Nicholson merely to keep some other candidate out and knowing those involved this may have been Cotton. The letter which Callaway had drafted and which he intended should be sent to the ‘veteran’ members was now further considered. It said that the Committee 'did not think it wise' to increase the existing rates of subscription but it emphasised the great improvement in the facilities since the last increase. Fitch greatly altered the letter, emphasising instead the Committee's 'Three Big Worries', the need for money for the upkeep of the library, the importance of increasing the reserve fund (which then stood at £1,600) for the renewal of the lease in 1970, and the rising cost of salaries, printing and other expenses.

In the event the letter, topped and tailed by Fitch and approved in November 1956, lacked the urgency of Callaway's draft. It went to only 141 members, mostly country members who paid one guinea and had not signed a deed of covenant. The result of all this prevarication was dismal failure. Only 54 members replied. Five resigned. There were a few donations, but the net annual gain was £24-3-5. The tackling of the underlying problem was, however, thus put off for several years. The membership reached 1,561 at the end of 1955 but after a small increase in 1956 fell back to 1,540 in 1957 and 1958.

Late Night Opening, Younger Members, 1954-57

In December 1954 it was announced that arrangements had been made to keep the Society's rooms open on Monday evenings until 7 pm [1829] without staff present and at the Annual Meeting in May 1955 Nicholson said that he and other committee members were keeping the rooms open and that about a dozen members were taking advantage of the longer hours. Nicholson gave up supervising the scheme in 1959 [1830] when two members, George Frederick Eglesfield (1898-1975) and Herbert Shipman (1904-1971) [1831], took joint responsibility for locking up, continuing to do so for some years.

The Society had since 1911 been the only one of its kind in the British Isles but in 1947 the Heraldry Society, then pompously called the Society of Heraldic Antiquaries, was inaugurated at East Knoyle in Wiltshire 'to instruct and interest the young in Heraldry and Genealogy'. This was done without reference to the Society of Genealogists though its founder John Brooke-Little (1927-2006) had been a member since 1945. Its early work was first mentioned in The Genealogists’ Magazine in 1948 [1832].

In 1954, although there was already a Cambridge University Heraldic and Genealogical Society, some interested students formed a Cambridge University Society of Genealogists, the leading lights being its Chairman, Donald Steel (1935-2008) at Peterhouse, and its Secretary, Malcolm Pinhorn (1932-2018) at Fitzwilliam, both members of the Society of Genealogists. The former had joined the latter society when a schoolboy at Mitcham in 1948 and the latter in 1952. Lord Mountbatten agreed to be President of the Cambridge society and Cregoe Nicholson and the historian, Professor Denis Brogan (1900-1974), Vice-Presidents. That first year it had about thirty members and in 1955 they visited the library, having become the first organisation to be affiliated to the Society the previous year [1833]. Not to be outdone the Oxford University Heraldry Society also applied to affiliate itself and elected Cregoe-Nicholson a Vice-President [1834]. What, if anything, such an affiliation implied in a practical sense was not determined.

In the summer of 1955 with the Society in financial difficulties and Hamilton-Edwards thinking of resigning, Nicholson recruited two students from the Cambridge Society to help with research at the Society during their long vacations. They were each paid ten shillings a day. They were Donald Steel, already known as a member, and Peter Spufford (1934-2017) who came in June and joined the Society that year, returning also to assist in the summer of 1956 [1835].

Donald Steel, Peter Spufford and Malcolm Pinhorn all came down from Cambridge in 1956. Along with the young Jeremy Sumner Wycherley Gibson (born 1934), a member since 1953, and Nicholas Hugh MacMichael (1933-1985) who joined in 1957, these energetic young people, began then to take a lively interest in the Society. They were impatient with its slow development, its small membership, the consequent lack of money, the many staff changes and the inward-looking nature of the organisation. They blamed the older generation who monopolised the committees and who, it seemed to them, had been there for ever.

International Congress, 1955

The first International Congress of Heraldry and Genealogy had taken place at Barcelona in 1928 during the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera, but it had received no attention by genealogists in the United Kingdom. The second, in Rome and Naples in 1953, established an international institute at Madrid and decided to hold the third congress at Madrid in October 1955. Amongst the 300 who attended were L. G. Pine, the editor of Burke's Peerage, who wrote an enthusiastic account in the March 1956 Magazine and John Brooke-Little, chairman of the Heraldry Society and editor of its journal The Coat of Arms. The President of the Congress was the Marques de Desio, Spanish Ambassador in Rome, and the proceedings had much to do with questions of nobiliary status and orders of chivalry. Pine characteristically contributed a paper on the reform of the House of Lords, the only paper in English printed in the Congress's 720-page Comunicaciones y Conclusiones. Russell Muirhead, who as editor of the Blue Guides travelled about Europe a good deal, considered these interesting but 'of little practical value' [1836].

Fellowship, 1955

By 1955 the number of Fellows had fallen to thirty-six. After the War their original privileges of borrowing two books from the Library at one time and of having ten ‘interests’ reported from the Great Card Index were largely obsolete as no new slips were being added to the index. However, at the instigation of Cregoe Nicholson, who was running everything, a batch of fifty new Fellows, including several overseas and many old friends who had been recently active, was elected in February that year bringing their number to 86 [1837]. After this the Fellows did not meet for another eight years. Election to Fellowship (by show of hands and without prior detail) still entailed a higher subscription though I doubt that the resulting increase in income was one of Nicholson's objects. A standard letter was sent to new Fellows which merely said, 'I have pleasure in telling you that you were elected a Fellow at a meeting of Fellows held here this afternoon. As you know, this does carry with it a higher subscription but in any event it will not be operative until next year' [1838].

Other Developments, 1956-1957

Marc Fitch was Chairman for only a year and did not find it congenial. He was succeeded from June 1957 until the summer of 1960 by the scholarly Lawrence Edward Tanner (1890-1979), a member since 1913 who for thirty years had been the Keeper of the Muniments at Westminster Abbey. Late in life he had married a niece of the great Lord Curzon [1839]. Unlike Fitch, Lawrence Tanner rarely came to the Society, but both left practically everything to their Vice-Chairman, Cregoe Nicholson, and the staff and financial situation did not greatly improve.

Nicholson used to say that the Chairman's appeal for funds with which to furnish the Members' Room had produced a surplus and that the balance was used to purchase the Society's first microfilm reader but a notice in the June 1956 issue of the Magazine makes it clear that the Executive Committee opened a fund specifically for that purpose that year, hoping to raise £200 for the machine and the nucleus of a film library, and that Sidney Cramer (1911-1996), the founder of the Scottish Genealogy Society and an eccentric genealogist who advertised research 'anywhere in Great Britain, Egypt, Illinois, and the World' [1840], had donated the first £2. A few spools of film had already been donated [1841]. The Genealogical Society of Utah having given £100 [1842], the required sum was subscribed in six months and a Recordak machine purchased in January 1957 [1843] and installed in the little Overseas Room in the basement. However, in June that year it was stated that the Society's few films were not available to searchers though members could bring their own films for use on the reader [1844]. It was a strange rule, quickly forgotten and a list of all the microfilms available, mostly of bishops' transcripts in the Diocese of Oxford, was published in the Magazine in 1960 [1845].

In 1956 the first volume of David E. Gardner and Frank Smith's important and influential Genealogical Research in England and Wales was published in Salt Lake City and reviewed by Patrick Montague-Smith as 'a very lucid and comprehensive guide to what records exist and how they should be interpreted'. He mentioned that the Genealogical Society of Utah was then filming the 1851 Census and that Wales and about half of England had been done [1846]. On the Isle of Man a copy of the returns was retained at Ramsay and was later the subject of project work by the local family history society but it was not until 1997 that it was found that it surprisingly differed in many respects from the official return sent to London and also filmed by the GSU [1847].

Probate Records, 1957-1970

Meanwhile the GSU operators under the direction of George Cunningham had also been extremely busy microfilming the vast collection of early probate records at Somerset House and there had been some discussion about the future of the duplicate films which were normally presented to the custodians of the records that had been filmed. Cunningham explained that these films should be regarded as the master copies; an additional working copy would need to be made for day-to-day use and replaced as it wore out. He reckoned that the life of the working copy would be from ten to forty years according to use. Cregoe Nicholson, Marc Fitch and Anthony Wagner had attended exploratory talks about these master copies with Mr Newton at the Principal Probate Registry in February 1957 and the following month George Cunningham was present with them, when the possibility of the films being housed by the British Library, represented by Mr Nixon, was discussed but the latter did not want to take all the films and nothing was done, nobody being willing to face the likely expense involved [1848].

It may be noted here that since the War there had been a number of movements of probate records amongst the local registries and to the newly formed county record offices. In 1942 the Exeter registry was destroyed by bombing along with all the probate records of the dioceses of Exeter and Bath and Wells. By the end of 1950 the Welsh records formerly dispersed at Bangor, Carmarthen, Chester, Llandaff and Shrewsbury, had been centralised at the National Library of Wales. Those for Bedfordshire had been brought from Birmingham to Bedford. The Chichester records at Winchester were moved to Chichester and the Kentish records were brought together at Maidstone. All these transfers, it may also be noted, were made without the legislation that had been said, on so many previous occasions, to be required.

The situation at Somerset House had become serious, the great growth in modern records causing intense congestion. The south wing of the building had itself been damaged by bombing and some of the rooms along the Embankment, where the windows had been blown in, were in an appalling state, thick with grime, with unsorted documents piled in vast heaps on the floor or in sacks, some apparently untouched since the 1870s and with one room, I was told [1849], unable to be opened because the bookcases had collapsed inside against the door. The unsorted inventories in their rolls, Ida Darlington wrote, looked 'like half-smoked cigars' [1850]. The original wills of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury were no longer in any condition to be produced to the public and all the subsidiary records were in disarray, only the register copy wills and act books being available.

The county record offices, having created possible alternative places of deposit for these documents and the local interest in them having grown considerably, there commenced in 1955 a movement to have the records of the local courts sent back to the counties to which they related. That movement met with a considerable amount of opposition from some quarters in London. However, by a series of orders of the President of the Probate Division and with the approval of the Lord Chancellor the records, largely having been microfilmed by the GSU, were slowly sent away. The first distribution was made in 1956 and continued for some years until only the Surrey courts and the records of the Prerogative Court were, until 1970 (when I shall take up the story), left at Somerset House. In Surrey no agreement could be obtained as to whether the records of the Surrey courts should go to Kingston or to Guilford, and in London there was an unhelpful distribution of records amongst several competing record offices. However, in these local record offices throughout England and Wales the records were to receive the special care and attention that the officials of the registries with all their other duties had neither the opportunity nor the training to give.

Lord Mountbatten, President, 1957

Queen Mary, the Society's Patron since 1919, had died in 1953 and the usual wreath and message of sympathy [1851] had been sent by the President, Viscount Mersey, who himself was frail and elderly and unable to take the chair at the AGM that August and died at Bignor Park, Sussex, on 20 November 1956, aged 84 [1852]. The Society then began to consider who might agree to be its President. Malcolm Pinhorn, who had joined the Executive Committee that year, knew of the involvement of the First Sea Lord and former Viceroy of India, Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1900-1979), in the Cambridge University Society of Genealogists and suggested that he be approached. Anthony Wagner, a member of the Executive Committee for many years and then Richmond Herald, made the initial overtures. He had got to know Lord Mountbatten through Sir Iain Moncreiffe, the author of Blood Royal, when Mountbatten asked them for advice on the family history that he was writing and Wagner had quickly realised the depth of Mountbatten's 'passion for his own ancestry in particular, and genealogy in general' [1853]. There was an initial obstacle in that the prospective President was not, as required by the Articles, a member of the Society [1854] and an Extraordinary General Meeting had to be held on Wednesday, 22 May, to give someone elected President 'the privileges of Fellows'.

Wagner, like many others, myself included, found Mountbatten 'easier to admire than to like', but it was a brilliant idea from which the Society was to benefit enormously. Mountbatten jumped at the chance and, proposed by the Vice-President, Lord Wright (1869-1964) [1855], a former Master of the Rolls, he was elected President at a Meeting held in the large drawing room of W. S. Gilbert's old house, next door to the Society, on Thursday afternoon, 23 May 1957. He then gave to the hundred or more members present an account of how his interest in genealogy had arisen and the relaxation it had afforded over the years particularly when as Viceroy of India he had managed to snatch an hour or so late at night or on a Sunday afternoon to work on his family tables, ‘a web of relationships over several centuries, which every day grew more intricate as he sought for that comprehensiveness which is the genealogist’s dream’ [1856]. He now placed on loan with the Society a copy of the resulting Relationship Tables (1947) printed on the Viceroy's Press at New Delhi [1857]. The talk was quickly reported in the Sunday Express [1858].

Tea was served and Mountbatten was taken on a tour of the building. They took him down to the basement and showed him the Overseas Room, where Colonel Percy-Smith was presented and spoke about the work that he was doing to assist many former servants of the Raj and their descendants to retain British Nationality after the passage of the 1947 India Act [1859]. They went into the Family History Room, the old kitchen, not the most photogenic of places, where Mountbatten leant against one of the bookcases and asked may questions about the Society. They found it difficult to get him away. He told the meeting that he felt amongst friends and he had clearly greatly enjoyed himself.

Mountbatten had taken as his text at the Meeting Lord Raglan's book The Hero which he had read twenty years before and recently re-read and which had obviously had an effect on him, not realising, I think, that Raglan had also been President of the Society. He spoke about the usual problems with early Saxon and Norman descents, saying that he was working on an account of his own line which did not have these problems but went back to the eighth century. Mountbatten had been sending to Anthony Wagner (by special messenger from the Admiralty) fortnightly instalments of the drafts of this book, The Mountbatten Lineage (1958), for him to look over. Now in the latter stages of the work, Mountbatten began to send the extensive supplementary tables to the Society for checking and it was my pleasure to deal with them, though someone told Ephraim Hardcastle of the Sunday Express that ‘as president of the Genealogical Society, he prefers to carry on without the services of a professional genealogical consultant’ [1860]. However, he kindly expressed his indebtedness for the help that he had received at the AGM in 1959 [1861].

It was during this work that I noticed that the long accepted matrilineal descent ascribed to Lord Mountbatten (and, of course, to the Duke of Edinburgh, the Kaiser, and Queen Victoria amongst many others including Charles II, the Young Pretender and Catherine II of Russia), which had given him a descent entirely in the female line from a Mongolian Princess of the Kumans, was incorrect, a fact that, with some annoyance, he noted in a footnote to his book and about which, after further correspondence with him, I published an article in 1960 [1862], thus provoking letters that expressed gratitude and, foregoing the usual formalities, were addressed 'My dear Camp'!

No visitor had been allowed to attend the AGM at which Mountbatten was elected but free tea tickets were sent to members who applied in advance. The library was closed all day. Prior to the Meeting Cregoe Nicholson was in a nervous state about one of our more eccentric members, Princess Madeleine Gabrielle von Dembinska (died 1966, aged 57) [1863], who was threatening to disrupt the proceedings because, for some long forgotten reason, she did not approve of Lord Mountbatten. Her mother, a penniless lady calling herself the Princess Carmen de Tresca-Bates von Dembinska (who also died in 1966, aged 81), had spent years in legal battles about a vast inheritance that she believed had been kept from her [1864]. The police had to be informed but in the event Princess Madeleine did not show up. Her request to see the Relationship Tables was subsequently declined. She lived with her litigious mother and was the level-crossing keeper at Rodbridge in Suffolk where she had a little rent-free cottage and occasionally changed the points on the branch line for £3-15-0 a week! [1865].

Lord Mountbatten eventually settled into a pattern of coming every second year to chair the Society's annual meetings, but until he resigned to become Patron in 1978 he took a very considerable and active interest in its affairs. However, he came to the next annual meeting on 18 June 1958, a memorable one, held in the Jerusalem Chamber at Westminster Abbey, approached through the Cloisters in Dean’s Yard. At these meetings Lord Mountbatten loved to get his teeth into some problem or other and early saw the importance of the tax refunds on covenanted subscriptions to the Society's income and frequently stressed their importance. In 1957 a ruling by the Inland Revenue affecting many learned societies had deprived us of about £300 a year [1866] and the Society of Antiquaries was leading a fight to get the order reversed. This fortunately succeeded in 1958 [1867] and the arrears were credited to the General Fund in 1959 [1868].

In 1958 Lord Mountbatten also mentioned with evident concern and interest the controversial ruling of the Archbishop and Bishops (discussed below) that the clergy were to make no entry in their parish registers to indicate that an adopted child was not the actual child of its foster-parents. He then went on to say something about his work on The Mountbatten Lineage and talked about his time in India when he had found the change of mental occupation from Service work to genealogical research very restful. He had worked on the Relationship Tables sometimes at one or two o'clock in the morning. It was 'a great relaxation' and he recommended such research to all who were over-worked in their ordinary everyday jobs. In proposing a vote of thanks at the end of the meeting Lawrence Tanner gave a short history of the Jerusalem Chamber and the historic events that had taken place there [1869].

John Phillips, Secretary, 1957-1961

There were various assistants in the office after the move in 1954 but none of them remained for very long. However, John Whitfield Mackenzie Phillips (1927-2003),whom Nicholson had met at the excavations of the Roman villa at Lullingstone, came to help in the office in the evenings late in 1956 and full-time in January 1957. Nicholson had taken him to the Public Record Office and showed him the basic genealogical ropes and he spent time trying to reduce the backlogs which Gerald Hamilton-Edwards had created. He developed into a most careful and meticulous searcher, at the same time labouring hard to bring much needed order to the neglected membership system and the office filing.

The office equipment had fallen somewhat behind the times, but a duplicator had been placed 'on permanent loan' with the Society by Herbert Willis in 1951 [1870]. By the late 1950s we had about 1,500 members and the Society had at some stage acquired an Addressograph system for addressing envelopes which I often operated and remember well. The instruction manual was dated July 1929. The metal address plates for each member, which had to be specially made, were passed through this machine, its head being slammed down to make an impression of the plate through a carbon tape onto the envelope placed inside it. The regular updating of changes of address, the removal of lapsed members and the addition of plates for new members, with the annual checking of the plates against the cards on which the members' subscriptions were entered, needed care and attention. When the membership grew into several thousands, it was a backbreaking task that would be spread over several days, the steady thud, thud, thud of the machine reverberating throughout the building, a sure indication that the quarterly Magazine was about to be sent to members. Although an electric machine was often discussed the cost was thought too high and it was not until the computerisation of the whole system by Sue Spurgeon in the 1980s that the machine and its many thousand plates were eventually consigned to history.

Anthony Camp, 1957-1959

My letter to the Society on 23 August 1957, mentioned in the Prologue, received a reply from Frank Bennett on 27 August asking me to come to see Cregoe Nicholson three days later. I was not to know that another research assistant, John Matthew, had left in May [1871], and that yet another protégé of Cregoe Nicholson would not necessarily be greeted with enthusiasm. I was a little nervous but kindly Florence Moss, the housekeeper, who served tea, apparently said that with a voice like that I should be in broadcasting or on the stage! [1872]. Nicholson put the possibility of temporary employment to the Executive Committee on 17 September and I had an interview at the College of Arms with Anthony Wagner, whom I had known and been in correspondence with for three years, that same day. The upshot was that with Wagner's support I started work at the Society on 24 September it being understood that if I went to university later that I might afterwards find employment with him at the College of Arms.

I was, of course, immensely lucky, but the pay was tiny. The Research Department then charged 7s 6d an hour and I received half that amount for the hours actually charged to clients, this being increased on new cases only, to 10s 6d in January 1958. National Insurance was deducted and I thus received about £3 or £4 a week, the situation improving to about £5 or £6 in 1958 when, in April, it was agreed that I should be paid a minimum of £7 a week. However at the end of 1957 we had made good progress in overtaking the research arrears and the staff as a whole were complimented for their willing co-operation in reducing expenditure and increasing the efficiency of the work of the Society [1873], something that was repeated in 1958 [1874] and again in 1959 [1875].

On that first day I remember meeting John Horace Blight (1918-2007) who, although often a critic of the way in which the Society expanded and changed its character over coming years and thus lost much of its former club-like atmosphere, remained a firm friend and supporter through many ups and downs. Quiet and scholarly he was a very shrewd observer of the foibles of his fellow committee-members and of the new breed of genealogists which was beginning to find its way to the Society.

When I appeared on the scene that September John Phillips and Nicholson both took trouble to take me around to the library at Somerset House for the nonconformist registers and the Public Record Office, mainly, at that time, for the 1841 and 1851 Census Returns, and to show me the ropes. This was a time when anyone wishing to inspect public records free of charge (fees remaining for specified classes of legal records until 1962) had to make prior written application for a Student’s Ticket and this had to be supported by the recommendation of a ‘person of recognised position’ with personal knowledge of the applicant. There was no provision for any day ticket or other temporary admission. The birth, marriage and death indexes at Somerset House I had used on day trips from Walkern.

Helen Thacker, who had been Superintendent of the Department for Literary Inquiry at the Principal Probate Registry, introduced me to her successor in Room 9, Geoffrey Moore Kirkwood (1906-1976), a former palaeographer at the PRO, and to the probate records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, sitting me down and dictating a letter to Lord Merriman, President of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division, to apply for a Reader's Ticket, before drafting out a sample will abstract for my future guidance [1876]. In a similar way Cregoe Nicholson introduced me to the Reading Room at the British Library. Here, being under 21, I had to make a special application supported by two references [1877]. I remember Nicholson remarking that he had been introduced there by his elder half-brother Henry Tinklar Nicholson, born in 1861, who in turn had been introduced by their relative the architect Thomas Leverton Donaldson (1795-1885) who designed the classical library at University College and the building which is now Dr Williams's Library. It was the sort of link that appealed to me greatly.

Most of our work was within the library, at the General Register Office, in census returns, parish registers and wills. In order to reduce the research backlog, cases were occasionally taken by members of the Executive Committee, in particular by Sir Christopher Courtney and Robert Garrett, the latter working on some major problems of early research and developing an expertise in early Chancery records. The business-like and ever-helpful Mrs Margaret A. J. Langford, JP (died 1965) [1878] had also been doing research for the Society for some years when I arrived, usually for three days a week and outside the Society's library, and continued so doing until 1959 when she moved to Brighton. At the AGM in 1958 it was said that 'the research position has greatly improved and that the overtaking of arrears has made considerable progress' [1879].

We did nearly all our own typing (on an old portable typewriter in the office and an Underwood – the ‘electric typewriting machine’ mentioned in 1935 was no longer in evidence) but a typist, Mrs Jefferson, came one day a week to assist Frank Bennett. May Sherwood worked on the document collection, there was a receptionist in the hall and a librarian, but that was all. The number of visitors could indeed on some days be very small. There were little signs hanging on the ornate light switches saying 'Please switch off when not in use', and the receptionist Mrs Rosalind Mallet (1904-1971), I remember in 1958, in black dress and a long string of pearls, could sometimes be seen doing a little embroidery on a frame. Mrs Sherwood or one of us relieved the receptionist at lunchtimes and the receptionist provided tea on the housekeeper's day off. As already noted the housekeeper then was Florence Moss, a kindly lady who provided tea in the Members Room and used to come up to polish the uncarpeted library floors in the evening, chiding me for staying late and frequently saying, 'This is no place for you, amongst all these old fogies. There's no future for you here'.

Miss Valerie S. Lawrence had followed Miss Cohen (of the carpet slippers) as Librarian in late 1956. Vivacious and industrious, she made the library a very happy place but sadly left in 1959 to marry and go to Canada. She had done much to foster relations with the members but, I believe, felt generally unappreciated for all her efforts, the pay being abysmal. The staff made their own tea and coffee in a room in the basement and some brought sandwiches to eat there at lunchtime. It was a haven to which Valerie Lawrence, John Phillips and I, all relatively new to the subject, would flee at these times from the vast variety of questions posed by the members.

In August 1958 the three of us were amongst the 76,000 who toured the new London Temple of the Latter-day Saints at Lingfield in Surrey, the first in the United Kingdom, prior to its dedication by the Church’s President David O. McKay on 7-9 September 1958. Three years later, on 26 February 1961, it was President McKay who also dedicated the Hyde Park stake chapel in Exhibition Road, specifically designed to serve a proselytising function in London itself, which I first visited with Archibald Colliard (1913-1966). Thirty-four years later, on 6 October 1992, I revisited Lingfield and was privileged to attend a tour and dinner given by the Genealogical Society of Utah prior to the re-dedication of the London Temple [1880] after considerable alterations and refurbishment. Six years after that, in May 1998, I visited Lancashire to see the beautifully appointed new Preston Temple prior to its dedication in June.

During Valerie's time as Librarian a frequent visitor, the Hon. Guy Strutt (1921-2008), seeing the same questions repeatedly asked of the staff, sketched out a draft for a beginner's guide to the Library which he called Using the Library of the Society of Genealogists. To this John Phillips and I made some additions and it was duplicated and henceforward usually given to new members and day searchers, steadily growing in size and developing into something of a best seller. The number of overseas visitors to the library was also steadily increasing and in 1957 the British Travel Association in New York published an eight-page booklet Tracing your ancestors in Britain which eventually went through many editions and had a wide circulation and in the revision of which the Society was always involved. It contained a list of twelve professional record searchers. It is interesting now to note that the words ‘county record office’ did not feature in that first year’s booklet. An advertisement for it in the National Geographic Magazine, which also mentioned the Society, helpfully said ‘the British adore old records and never throw them out’, adding ‘If you don’t have a British ancestor, why not invent one?’ After the Association produced a poster ‘Grand vacation project: how to find your great-great-great-great-great-grandfather in Britain’ showing an unlikely-looking ‘oldest inhabitant’, the popular magazine Everybody’s gave us a very nice write-up that even Cregoe Nicholson could not find fault with [1881].

I had been curious to find out what other professional genealogists were charging at this time and wrote privately to three that I had seen advertising, saying that I had done some work on my family but had found problems in the eighteenth century. The firm Deeny & Sword in Shaftesbury Avenue, run by J. C. Dennistoun-Sword (1916-1977), said that it would be prepared to do the equivalent of a week’s work on the problem for thirty guineas. Another firm, Ottley & Ottley in Fleet Street, run by Vivian Ottley-Ward-Jackson (1914-1992), said that it would devote one week continuously to it for twenty guineas which would include out-of-pocket disbursements. In 1967 it was reported that he was charging Americans ‘a not unusual fee for comprehensive research in his profession’ of $875 per case [1882] Alexander W. D. Mitton (1895-1977) at ‘The Dungeon’ in Earls Court Road told me that he was for some years Rouge Dragon Pursuivant of Arms at the College of Arms (he had, in fact, as a bankrupt been obliged to resign and had gone to Australia in 1922) but that he was ‘now working as a private genealogist, in conjunction with the College of Arms’, and as he only undertook work from the present day backwards, for which he required an initial fee of two hundred guineas, he was presumably unable to help. I was surprised to hear later that Mitton had subsequently telephoned the Rector of my home parish to know something about me. He would have been unpleasantly surprised to know how much I had already been told about him! [1883].

In 1959-60 Vivian Ottley-Ward-Jackson, by then in Lower Sloane Street, advertised in the ‘Businesses and Partnerships’ column of The Lady, ‘We will teach you Genealogy and Heraldry in three months and you will have an interesting and lucrative profession as a Genealogist. We will also include your pedigree researched for the inclusive training fee of £200’ [1884]. In reply to an interested lady he referred to ‘people we have already trained during the past years’ and wrote that genealogy is ‘a most interesting and lucrative profession which fortunately is not overcrowded … we are not restricted by any governing body concerning our fees’. I remember too that about this time Alexander Mitton similarly advertised for an apprentice. At Christmas 1960 it was noted that one genealogist, Rosemary Pinches (died 2014, aged 85), the proprietor of the bookshop ‘Heraldry Today’ in Knightsbridge and the wife of John Pinches the medallist, was even selling gift tokens with a family tree on the front: three guineas to see if the family had a coat of arms, ten guineas to start an investigation of the pedigree, and £400 to have the results ‘embossed, bound, or covered in gold-leaf’ [1885].

Forms and 'Family Group Sheets' were at this time becoming known in England and in 1957 the ingenious Family Tree Record designed by a member, John Stanley Gordon Clark (1903-1985), and Horace C. V. Jones was first produced and sold at the Society (as a successor to William H. Whitmore’s old Ancestral Tablets first published in America in 1885) and became a very popular way of recording in book form all the lines of one's ancestry for seven generations (for 30 shillings) [1886]. A few years later John Gordon Clark produced another most ingenious work which showed on drop-line pedigrees all the descendants of Samuel Pepys's father, and in which, by cutting away progressive amounts of the upper parts of its 85 pages and using a spiral ring-back binding, he was able to reveal at any opening the descent from the first ancestor of all those on the same generation of the family [1887].

Also in 1957 an indefatigable transcriber of parish registers on the Society's behalf, Harry Norman Peyton (1901-1968), produced the first of three volumes of a typescript Index of Stray Registrations taken from some 186 parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials in which the person concerned was of another parish [1888]. A court clerk, Harry Peyton hand copied innumerable registers during court business and whilst waiting to record verdicts. His work became the forerunner of many 'indexes of strays' or 'out-of-area' persons later to be compiled by local family history societies and coordinated by the Federation of Family History Societies.

Developments in the study of etymology since the end of the nineteenth century had had little effect on works purporting to give the origin of surnames and a full advantage of recent developments in knowledge was not taken until 1958 when Percy Hide Reaney (1890-1968) produced his monumental A dictionary of British surnames (1958, 1961), undoubtedly the greatest step forward since Bardsley, its value lying principally in 'its careful listing of all the likely variants (or nearly all) of the British surnames that are included'. Commenting on some of the names omitted a review by Russell Muirhead recalled a little story of the marriage of a Mr Gotobed (a Cambridgeshire name) to a Miss Twisaday (a Lancashire name) only one of those surnames being explained! [1889]. Reaney later produced a general work, The origin of English surnames (1967) but died the following year, his dictionary being revised by R. M. Wilson as A dictionary of English surnames in 1991.

The 1959 review in the Magazine appeared alongside two other important works: L. C. Hector's The handwriting of English documents (1958) discussed by Miss O'Farrell and the new Burke's genealogical and heraldic history of the landed gentry of Ireland (1958) reviewed by Guy Strutt’s friend the frequent visitor Brian de Breffny (1931-1989).

A.I.D., Adoption and Baptism, 1958

A matter of great importance to genealogists arose in Janauary 1958 when the Dr Geoffrey Fisher, the Archbishop of Canterbury, used his final presidential address to the Convocation of Canterbury to call for urgent legislation on the ‘deliberate deception’ of artificial insemination by donor (A.I.D.). A week earlier the Court of Session in Edinburgh had decided that A.I.D. was not adultery though, in the case then under consideration, the couple had parted in March 1954 and a child conceived with the assistance of a third-party donor, had not been born until sixteen months later. The judge involved had, however, said that a married woman who by this means had a child ‘who would not be the child of her marriage had committed a grave and heinous offence’ against the contract of marriage. The archbishop referred to the report of a commission published in 1948 which said that A.I.D. was wrong in principle, contrary to Christian standards and should be made a criminal offence. The commission had believed that the husband would always be a consenting party, but in this case the husband knew nothing until the child was born. Dr Fisher said that an honest and moving case could be made for A.I.D., but it was not a private matter, it was an offence against the social and legal implications of marriage, done in secrecy. He said that ‘the institution of marriage is meant, among other things to give to children the security of knowing who their parents are, and to give to society the same security’. He said that A.I.D. destroyed that security at its roots and the child was the lifelong victim of deception. The law, he thought, ‘should not allow the standing and integrity of the family and the parentage of children  to rest upon a deliberate deception, deliberately concealed’. If  A.I.D. was not a criminal offence then every instance should be registered, the name of the donor should be recorded and the register should be available for inspection under safeguards. The donor’s share in this business was, he said, the most secret, the most responsible, and the most hard to justify [1890].

In spite of the Archbishop’s plea for urgent legislation it was not until July 1982 that the Warnock Committee was established to consider the implications of recent and potential developments in this field. That Committee’s report, proposing the establishment of a regulator, was published on 18 July 1984 and an Interim (Voluntary) Licensing Authority was established in 1985 but it was not until 1991 that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority came fully into force with, from 1 August 1991, its centralised record of all births resulting from assisted conception treatments in fertility clinics licensed in the UK. The story of the Society’s further involvement in this matter is taken up below.

On another but related question the Archbishop recalled that in January 1956 the bishops had agreed to recommend that the names of adoptive parents should, with certain specified exceptions, be entered in a church’s register of baptisms, without qualification, as though they were the natural parents of the child baptised. This recommendation had led to considerable correspondence with the College of Arms, which argued that this would destroy the evidential value of the baptismal register. The Canon Law Steering Committee now agreed that if an entry was to be made in the baptismal register it should be factually correct and if those named as the parents were not the natural parents of the child the register should give some indication of that fact. Garter King of Arms had written to The Times, not knowing that there was a division of opinion which had yet to be discussed by the bishops [1891].

Garter King of Arms Sir George Bellew’s letter had appeared in November 1957 saying that there was reason to believe that some clergy had entered the names of the adoptive parents in their registers in the place where they were required by law to enter the names of the true parents. This the Chapter of the College considered ‘deplorable’ and he drew attention to the Hurst Committee’s recommendaton that ‘a duty be laid on the court to satisfy itself before making an adoption order that the adopters have told or intend to tell the child of his adoption’ [1892]. A subsequent letter to The Times from Elizabeth Hirst, of Clacton-on-Sea, argued that Bellew’s points were anti-social and against the basic principle of adoption that once adoption had taken place the child became, for all legal intents and purposes, the child of the adoptive parents. She believed that the true facts should not be publicised but known to the parents and the child alone [1893]. E.A.F. Fenwick, of Belford, countered by saying that ‘omissions or insertions likely to or intended to deceive, mislead, or obscure are inexcusably wrong in any event, as well as being absolutely contrary to public policy’ [1894].

The matter was discussed by the Executive Committee of the Society of Genealogists at its meeting in February 1958 and the Chairman, Lawrence Tanner, wrote to The Times expressing the committee’s relief at the archbishop’s change of mind but asking that the bishops’ recommendation now be withdrawn as wholly anomalous since it appeared that compliance with the bishops’ recommendation ‘would not only be illegal but also disapproved by the Archbishop’ [1895]. I am not aware that any formal action was taken along those lines. The Society’s later objective, until the law was changed in 1975, as discussed below, was to allow adoptive children to see their original birth certificates, and then later for that right to be extended to the adopted child’s descendants.

Finance and Magazine, 1957-1960

The Society’s difficult financial position continued and on 15 October 1957 the Honorary Treasurer, Callaway, frustrated at every turn by the Executive Committee, resigned. An overdraft of £8,000 was negotiated with the Bank and it was agreed to discontinue binding copies of parish registers for incumbents.  Only then was it decided that in the new year the members should for the first time pay an extra £1 a year for the Magazine, the high cost of which was a particular burden, and that from the March issue a charge of a shilling a line would be made for the insertion of Readers' Queries, the minimum fee being five shillings [1896]. The Chairman, Lawrence Tanner, wrote to all the members on 11 December saying that the possibility of restricting the number of issues of the Magazine or of suspending publication altogether had been discussed and that 'for the present' this extra charge must apply to all who took the Magazine.

It was not a wise decision and quite a number of members decided not to take the Magazine (or to tell the Society of their decision) and for two years the Secretary had to write to many members to whom the Magazine was still being sent because they had not altered their banker's orders for the extra £1 and their intentions were not clear [1897]. Life Members were now denied the Magazine unless they also paid the extra £1 and that also caused friction. From now on the subscription a member paid depended not only on where he or she lived but on the year in which they had joined (unless they had voluntarily increased it at some stage) and whether they took the Magazine (the price of which could, of course, be increased). From the point of view of the office administration it was all highly unsatisfactory.

Non-members who subscribed to the Magazine saw the cost increased from fifteen shillings to £2 and subscribing libraries from 12s 6d to fifteen shillings a year, the latter small increase being made in the hope that libraries would continue to subscribe [1898]. All were told in a circular from Nicholson that it was assumed that they would wish to continue to subscribe at the increased rates and, just to complicate matters a little further, copies of the Magazine continued to be sent.

As Editor of the Magazine since 1954 Cregoe Nicholson had continued on traditional lines, attempting to provide news of current genealogical developments and relying greatly on reviews. Back in March 1955 he had begun publishing there 'Some Early Emigrants to America' containing his abstracts of 758 indentures (then in Middlesex Guildhall) of persons willing to serve in the plantations in 1683 and 1684 [1899]. As only about eight abstracts could be printed to a page, everyone, including Nicholson himself, became very bored with the project long before publication concluded in the December 1960 issue. He used to make his abstracts at the last minute before publication and latterly I was drafted in to assist in the abstracting process. Some years later, in 1976, the Magazine printed a further 70 additional indentures from that same series which had been found by John Wareing at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington (having been bought from a London dealer in 1957) and in the West Indies Reference Library at Kingston, Jamaica [1900].

In the summer of 1959 there was a prolonged printing dispute, lasting nearly two months [1901], and, of course, the Magazine was dreadfully delayed, and events that had taken place in January and February 1960 were commented upon in the December 1959 issue [1902]. Writing to members about the extra £1 owing for the Magazine in February 1960, the Secretary, John Phillips, unfortunately had to say that the previous September's Magazine was still not available [1903]. Of course this was not altogether Nicholson's fault but the complaints about his editorship continued to grow and at the end of 1960, having completed his 'Emigrants to America', he decided to resign and Peter Spufford, by now a member of the Executive Committee, was appointed editor in his place.

Staff Changes, 1957-1959

Unfortunately at this time, the Secretary, Frank Bennett, unhappy at home and, with Nicholson always in the background, unhappy at work also, began to spend too much time in the bars of the neighbouring Hotel Eden and on Gloucester Road Station. We were all very fond of him, but he resigned without notice in April 1959, and after he had gone we were deeply upset when a major irregularity with regard to the income from one of the flats upstairs was found in the accounts and the possibility of legal action had to be discussed [1904].

In February 1960, we were told that Bennett had died but it seems now that the story of Bennett's death was designed to draw a quick veil over the matter, for he did not actually die until 1970. Much later, when I was Director, I bought back for the Society the uneasy correspondence that the Chairman, Lawrence Tanner, had had with our relatively new President, Lord Mountbatten, attempting to explain this unfortunate and embarrassing incident, and which, after Tanner's death in 1979, had found its way into the hands of a dealer in autographs.

The diligent John Phillips had been appointed Assistant Secretary on 17 September 1957 [1905] and worked well alongside Frank Bennett who did the book keeping. Following the latter's flight, John was himself appointed Secretary in May 1959, the position being confirmed in September, but Nicholson's continual interference and criticism was a perpetual trial. John Phillips always referred to Nicholson as 'Nikolaievich' and that name, with its aura of habitual intrigue, suited him well.

When Valerie Lawrence left early in 1959 I asked to be made Librarian and as I was taking the examinations of the Library Association that was agreed and I served in that capacity for about six months until going to University College London in late September. I remember in particular the work of catching up on the cataloguing, of dealing with the many periodicals that had been received since the move, and of sorting out some of the collections that had been received at that time and hurriedly placed in cupboards in the old kitchen. In the evenings I spent some time with Cregoe Nicholson going along the shelves and making notes of his comments about the main manuscript collections. One large collection received that year under the will of Percy Charles Dryden Mundy (1879-1959), related to the Lincolnshire families of Massingberd and Mundy and included many original documents and the personal correspondence of the Massingberds of Ormsby in the 18th and early 19th centuries. These were sorted and catalogued by Lawrence Tanner’s wife Joan (died 1971) and subsequently, whilst I was Director, passed to a more appropriate home at the Lincolnshire Archives Office.

The amount of research undertaken by the Society had now to be curtailed to some extent and a form letter, the first of many similar, was devised saying that the Research Department was at present fully booked up and could not undertake any fresh work. Sent with the letter were details of the Society and its few publications, together with a list of recommended professional searchers and a note that their charges were about three and a half guineas a day plus out-of-pocket expenses.

When I left the Society in September 1959 I had no idea, of course, that I would be returning to work there three years later. On 18 October 1959 I wrote a long, difficult and perhaps overly frank letter to the Chairman, Lawrence Tanner, which must have given him considerable cause for thought [1906]. I think one would call it excoriating where Cregoe Nicholson was concerned! I said how impossible the situation had become with his 'pestering presence', he causing 'so much unpleasantness and the resulting frequent changes of staff'. His unreasoning antagonism, I wrote, was now directed against John Phillips and I paid tributes to his work and to that of Valerie Lawrence and May Sherwood who had both been so kind to me. I wrote about the staffing of the library, the members' willingness to help, but the generally negative attitude to new ideas, the lack of open discussion in the committees and the Society's 'lack of cooperation with bodies having similar aims to our own'. Tanner responded at some length in an open and friendly manner [1907], but in the long run little if anything changed, and many of the points that I had mentioned were at the root of the criticisms brought up again in the upheavals following Philip Blake's dismissal as Director of Research in 1962.

Of course I could not keep away from the Society and although supposed to be at University continually came there, particularly in the first two years of my course. In December 1959 the Society gave me a quite unexpected honorarium on this account and the Annual Report said that I had been ‘giving valuable help’ during my vacations [1908]. I was glad, however, to see the outside of the building painted in 1960 and a slight increase in salaries that year. Consideration was then being given to acquiring an extension of the Society’s lease which was due to expire in 1970, but as a first step an extension of the user permit (which expired at the same time) had first to be obtained [1909]

I had been succeeded as Librarian late in 1959 by Miss Margaret E. Goodliffe who suffered my many intrusions with calm good humour. One of the most exciting things that happened almost immediately was the opening of parcels from Salt Lake City and the finding of the first ten volumes of the new Second Miscellaneous Series of Boyd's Marriage Index, 1626-1725, which had been typed from Boyd's remaining slips and which we decided to have bound in blue [1910]. The main volumes had been bound in green and the First Miscellaneous Series in red. Also received from Salt Lake City in 1960 was the most valuable typescript of the Gloucestershire Marriage Index which had been typed from slips written by Eric Archer Roe (1906-1977) [1911]. These were also bound in green and arranged with Boyd’s Index, the final 21 volumes appearing on the shelves in 1963 [1912].

Another marriage index which was being compiled in the background was that by Thomas Frederick Allen, of Hertford, a member since 1951 and an industrious typist, which eventually covered all the marriages in Hertfordshire before 1837. His first transcripts of 33 parishes were received in 1960 [1913]. He would make searches amongst his slips for any given marriage in return for small fees and this service to members was conducted through me at the Society. I remember his justified indignation at a lady member interested in the surname Hailey who only wanted those spelt with an ‘H’.

A bequest of £25 from Edward Albert Bytham who died in April 1959 and other gifts totalling £35 enabled us to have some books bound, in particular the parish register transcripts which had waited for some years [1914]. A bequest of £100 from Major F. E. H. Bostock (a member since 1919), received in June 1955 specifically to assist with the work of parish register transcription, was also important and was slowly being used [1915]. At this time a young member, Charles William Southcombe (1932-1999), who was a binder at the British Library, volunteered his able assistance and for several years until 1967 repaired and rebound a very considerable number of books on the Society’s behalf [1916]. The binding of the first volumes of the Macleod collection is mentioned above.

The Society’s limited programme of lectures at this time continued the practice of having just three in the autumn and three after Christmas. The lecturers in 1959 included Sir Gyles Isham, Sir John Summerson, Maurice Bond from the House of Lords’ Record Office and George Squibb, Norfolk Herald Extraordinary, all with a large attendance [1917]. On Saturday, 6 February 1960, I spoke in an overflowing Members' Room on the 'Special Collections in the Library of the Society of Genealogists'. Like other lectures at that time it had been advertised in the personal column of The Times two days’ earlier. My talk formed the basis for my article in the special Jubilee issue of the Magazine in June 1961 and then for the central section of the revised Genealogists' Handbook published that year.

Phillimore & Co

Way back in 1935 Thomas Blagg had nominated Cregoe Nicholson a Director of Phillimore & Co, the old publishing and research firm, and together with Harold Ridge he had sustained the business into the War years, Nicholson being eternally optimistic whilst Ridge was equally pessimistic about the future of the company [1918]. However, Nicholson resigned in 1941 and Ridge continued his involvement until 1951 when the solicitor-genealogist Beach Whitmore became chairman with the active genealogist William Cotton as managing director. The latter did his best, but he was also chairman of the Society's Executive Committee at the difficult time of Kathleen Blomfield's resignation and he was obliged to resign in 1953 to look after a devoted wife who had become unwell. The over-burdened Kendall Percy-Smith, who had become ‘Director and Secretary’ of Phillimore in 1951 and had been joined on the board by Kathleen Blomfield, now became chairman of Phillimore and a period of stagnation followed.

Ridge, living at Penzance and rarely coming to London, had continued to keep in touch with developments and wrote uneasily to Whitmore in May 1953 that he was sorry to find that Percy-Smith was now alone at 120 Chancery Lane [1919]. The office was still the registered office of the British Record Society and housed its set of the Index Library of which Harold Ridge (who died in 1957) was the General Editor.

The Phillimore business now became extremely poor (the profit in 1955 was £6!) and there was much talk of liquidation. In 1957 Nicholson had discussed a possible purchase of shares in the company with Whitmore, a man of considerable means, and he subsequently represented Whitmore's interests when the latter died later that year. Nicholson thus had fingers in many pies. The Phillimore board met at the Society in December 1958 and Nicholson wanted me to be involved but that was a clear impossibility from a financial point of view and early in 1960 the interested parties agreed to sell out to Marc Fitch (then Chairman of Council of the British Record Society and, in essence, Ridge’s successor as general editor), Malcolm Pinhorn becoming the firm's Director.

The offices at 119-120 Chancery Lane, just across the road from the Public Record Office, consisted of three rooms on the second floor but they had hardly been used for seven years and everything was covered with black dust. Peter Spufford, who visited them in Cotton's day, recalls that he was 'appalled at the grime and chaos' [1920]. Harold Ridge had been a Director of Mead Makers Limited and under the main desk there were still several stone jars for mead! In the long vacation between July and September 1960 I worked for Malcolm Pinhorn and after opening the windows and giving the filthy rooms a spring clean, I enjoyed going through and listing the books and papers and dealing with the mail that still arrived in surprising quantities. There were even occasional callers (and telephone calls from breweries about the mead!). At the same time I did some paid research and went at least one day a week to the Society.

Phillimore’s lease in Chancery Lane came to an end that year and Malcolm Pinhorn moved the company to East Street, Farnham in December 1960 [1921] and then to Bridge Place, Canterbury, in January 1962 [1922]. I continued to do occasional research for Malcolm and remember work on the Protestation Oath Rolls in the House of Lords Library in September 1962, following searches in the Association Oath Rolls at the Public Record Office that August. William Cotton's wife had meanwhile died, leaving him in a most depressed state and he sadly took his own life at home in April 1961. He had, I am told, always been a most difficult man to work with on the Society’s committees but he had been a great servant of the Society since long before 'the Move' and was a frequent visitor and a kindly and solid supporter of the staff through a most difficult period and his death was a great blow to us all.

The last volume of The Complete Peerage, described by Anthony Wagner as 'the greatest genealogical work of our generation' [1923], was published in 1959 [1924], providing a history of the House of Lords and all its members from the earliest times to 1938. The first volume in the series had appeared as long ago as 1910 and the series editor, Geoffrey White, had been elected a Vice-President of the SoG in 1958 [1925]. George D. Squibb appointed Norfolk Herald of Arms Extraordinary in 1959, wrote an important article evaluating 'Visitation Pedigrees and the Genealogist' for the Magazine in 1960 [1926].

An interesting suggestion by Kenneth Rutherford Davis in the March 1961 Magazine that there was a desperate need for a reference-book giving skeleton pedigrees for say 200-300 of the foremost mediaeval families [1927], sadly went without comment, and no such work has since been compiled.

National Index of Parish Registers, 1959

Following the publication of the National Index of Parish Registers in 1937 a card index of corrections and additions had been maintained at the Society and in 1944 Kathleen Blomfield had foreseen a time after the War in which a new National Index of Parish Registers would be published giving 'all the known information of the registers of each ancient parish, the dates of the original registers still extant, particulars of copies, notes of destruction or loss of originals, together with space to register additional information' [1928].

Similarly Jeremy Gibson, coming on the scene in 1956, wanted to publish a new edition in one volume arranged by county which might incorporate all the information from the two previous volumes and bring them up to date. However, he found that the card index contained material from only about six libraries and he therefore appealed for additional information [1929]' In 1958 he began to make a name for himself by producing a little volume, Monumental Inscriptions in Sixty Hampshire Churches [1930], before moving to Oxfordshire and publishing the 54-page Marriage Register of Chelsea, Middlesex, 1704-1760, in which he broke new ground by producing 65 copies for six shillings each by using multilitho from typed duplimats [1931].

The number of register transcripts coming into the library was now again steadily increasing and in 1958 some 82 were added to the collection [1932]. In 1959 there were letters in the Daily Telegraph from Stanley Holloway of Hounslow and Ian S. Wordsworth of St John’s College, Cambridge, both urging the transcription of parish registers and the creation of county-wide indexes of their entries and another letter from B. Gledhill of Mickleover saying ‘away with the drudgery of copying out lists of burials’ and urging instead a study of the civil records of a parish. As a result Jeremy Gibson as Chairman of the Parish Registers Committee wrote about the work that Percival Boyd had done and which was on-going in Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and Sussex. He feared that unless massive financial support could be found the more ambitious schemes would remain impractical and he urged the copying of complete local registers and, in particular, of the marriage registers, at the same time as asking for details of recent copying for the new edition of the National Index of Parish Registers which he was preparing [1933].

Helped by the Hon. Guy Strutt (1921-2008), Gibson began to revise the entries in the card index and in August 1959 he raised the matter at the AGM again appealing for the help of members in the checking of the transcripts in the Society's library and in other London repositories. Encouraged at the meeting by Lord Mountbatten, nine members came forward. Jeremy Gibson then made a similar appeal, linking it to the need for further register transcription generally, in the September Magazine [1934]. Already by July 1959 cards had been written for all the English parishes and the known copies entered and drafts of the finished texts for seven counties had been completed [1935]. Gibson also got some basic Recommendations for copying parish registers printed at the London School of Printing and Graphic Arts and this urged that everything be copied up to 1840 if possible. Unfortunately for any intending transcribers in Somerset the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Dr Harold Bradfield, decided that this was the time to order all the clergy in his diocese not to allow church documents out of their possession for any reason and in particular not to allow their microfilming by the Mormons. His Prebendary Hugh Parnell was quoted as saying that anyone with complete microfilms of the church registers could ‘start up in business and make very big profits indeed’ and that the Mormons were using these films ‘in the revival of a rather primitive and not very desirable practice – the baptism of the dead’ [1936].

The Church of England’s disapproval seems to have been more financial than theological. The legal committee of the Church Assembly had advised the clergy to charge a search fee for each entry that was photographed and in December 1960 it was widely reported that the ‘eager’ LDS missionaries seemed willing to pay. As a result the Association of (Anglican) Bishops’ Legal Secretaries and Registrars warned its members to be on their guard against the Mormons, Robert Money the diocesan registrar at Truro in Cornwall, where more than half the registers had been filmed, proclaimed that photographing the registers was ‘undesirable’, but Mr H. L. Douch, the curator of the county museum at Truro, said that this was ‘pig-headed and unkind’ and that the Anglicans were for some reason afraid of the Mormons and tried to suggest that they were evil which was a lot of eyewash [1937]. Mr Money was quoted as saying that the suggested charges were designed to discourage the missionaries [1938] but The Times reported that Mr T. Bowring-Woodbury, the LDS British Mission President, said that there was a gross misunderstanding of the work done by the Mormon Church which was intended ‘to preserve the genealogical records of the world’. He said that his Church had not met with any opposition when attempting to carry out that work, permission had always been readily granted and it was accustomed to paying the normal fees [1939]. A few days later Cyril Aynsley, writing in the Daily Express, protested against Mr Money’s niggling intolerance and wrote that the Mormons were men of zeal and burning faith, not mischievous, nor ignoble, ‘How monstrous that their work should be impeded by petty officialdom, prompted by misunderstanding and plain uncharitableness!’ [1940]. One of Aynsley’s main points was that many registers were mouldering in damp cupboards in dank vestries in remote villages and would, by microfilming, be preserved before they were irretrievably lost.

At this juncture Jeremy Gibson, who had become active in Oxfordshire, passed over the work to Colin Walter Field (1927-2016), a great transcriber of registers in Sussex who had been helping since May 1960, and Donald Steel (1935-2008) became involved. In September 1960 Steel sent out a questionnaire with the Magazine (in connection with his projected 1961 Register of Members) which had resulted in a great increase in the number of volunteers indexing parish registers [1941] and in 1961 the Parish Register and Monumental Inscriptions Sub-Committee appointed him, Field and Gibson as joint editors of the Index [1942], Steel being the chairman. Colin Field circulated all the libraries in the country and entered up the additional information on the cards, typing from them provisional county lists. The idea was to limit the publication of the proposed National Index of Parish Registers and Parish Register Copies to registers before 1812. The intention was to complete the work in late 1961 or early 1962 with publication following in late 1962 or early 1963 [1943]. In March 1962 it was again said that it was hoped that the National Index 'will be completed by the end of the year' [1944] and I was unwillingly co-opted to the Editorial Committee, the Annual Report saying that our task would be completed ‘early in 1964’ [1945].

Unfortunately, the obsessive and impractical Donald Steel, who never knew how to draw a line under any project, decided that he would include details of bishops' transcripts in the proposed National Index and passed the work of organising the transcription of registers to Malcolm Pinhorn so that he could concentrate on a survey of these transcripts. Although the Society had a basic county listing of the whereabouts of bishops transcripts made in 1952 and a slightly more detailed one had appeared in the second volume of Smith and Gardner's Genealogical Research in England and Wales (1959), bishops transcripts were still not widely used by genealogists and were in many cases only now being made available and catalogued in detail.

The likely size of the resulting National Index volume thus grew apace and Steel began to think in terms, not of one volume, but of a series of volumes arranged in groupings of counties [1946]. Sadly, although many volunteers worked on various counties, no group of counties achieved completion at the same time and publication was continually delayed. Francis Maxwell Barrell (1892-1972) [1947] had responded to Steel's 'urgent' appeal in 1961 [1948] and he made a notable contribution by checking all the copies at the Society. Colin Field himself extended the listings to include the Welsh parishes and Donald's mother, Alice Steel, worked full time on the project but, as will be seen, the first regional volume did not appear until 1966 and the whole project became a major irritation to those at the Society who had to explain the delays to members whose need for a basic list of copied registers remained unsatisfied.

International Congress, 1960

At the Annual Meeting in July 1960 Cecil Humphery-Smith asked if the Society intended sending a representative to the Fifth International Congress to be held at Stockholm in August and it was noted that Peter Spufford, a member of the Executive Committee, would be attending [1949]. He gave a report on it in the September Magazine, describing not only the formal dinners and receptions but also the talks on the theme 'Genealogical problems posed by emigration' and an exhibition 'The Ancestors' put on by the two Swedish genealogical societies. The talks included Dr Nils William Olsson from Washington on 'Source materials on emigration in the US Federal Archives', Gerard de Villeneuve on the microfilming taking place in France, and the noted Rosalie Fellows Bailey (1908-1991) from New York Public Library on the problems of 17th century immigration into New York, noting that one major movement was frequently preceded by a shorter one, either from one European country to another or from the country to a city. Invitations had been extended to hold the next congress in the United Kingdom, either in London or in Edinburgh [1950].

The same Magazine included a report from R. S. Kirk, a medical student, who had spent time in America in 1959, describing his month-long experiences of societies, archives, libraries and court houses and his visit to Salt Lake City where David Gardner showed him the amazing library with its seats for 400 people, a staff of 250 and a research department dealing with inquiries in sixteen different languages. He found 'an enthusiasm for genealogy throughout America' and was envious of the amount of money available, he not being charged for searches anywhere [1951].

Jubilee Year, 1961

In July 1960 one of the group of younger members, Malcolm Pinhorn, a little older than the others, was elected Chairman of the Executive Committee, a post he held only for eighteen months, but the period coincided with the Society's fiftieth anniversary in 1961. Unfortunately, the keen and conscientious John Phillips, fearing that nothing would change for the good and receiving a wretchedly low salary, resigned as Secretary on 27 May 1961 to work at Middlesex County Hall [1952], and, as described later, the impossibly difficult Philip Blake was appointed in his place, commencing work on 12 June 1961.

Whilst Miss Goodliffe was librarian the library was closed for cleaning, 16-28 January 1961, and an opportunity taken to make a much-needed check of a large part of the library stock, several members assisting in the process [1953].

John Phillips had had as his Assistant at the Society from 25 January 1960, the dapper and quietly amused Commander Edward Fleetwood McNeil-Smith, R.N. (1898-1987), a remarkable character. He had passed into the Royal Naval College, Osborne, from the Grange preparatory school at Stevenage (later part of Alleyne's School where I was educated) in 1911 and was Paymaster on HMS Hermes when the Japanese sank it in 1942. Although quite badly burned he had had various jobs as a cashier at the BBC Television Studios and with BUPA since leaving the Navy in 1947. Hardworking in the office he was quite terrified of being asked difficult genealogical questions by the members and avoided contact with them as far as possible! A few days after Blake's appointment in June 1961 he gave up his 'year of struggle', as some twenty years later he described his time at the Society, and went to work for three years at the Business Archives Council where his work was described as ‘invaluable’ [1954]. There important new initiatives in education and training in the care and conservation of business archives were taking place [1955].

Both Phillips and McNeil-Smith had been mentioned in the 1960 Annual Report for their hard and conscientious work [1956] and it is almost shocking now to look back and see that none of the subsequent staff changes in 1961, including their resignations, were mentioned in the Reports. Indeed, no further mention of any member of staff, coming or going, was made in the Reports until 1965. Nicholson, then Vice-Chairman, had turned against Phillips but at least Malcolm Pinhorn was able to express his regret at Phillips’s resignation after four years as Secretary at the AGM in May [1957].

As already noted the Honorary Treasurer Callaway had resigned in 15 October 1957 and he was eventually replaced in January 1958 by the well-connected chartered accountant, Archibald Robert Cecil Fleming (1899-1969) [1958], but he too resigned in July 1960 [1959] and was succeeded by the highly practical and realistic Sir Christopher Courtney who only served for a year but was instrumental in tackling the subscription problem.

Early in 1961 the Executive Committee at last agreed that as from April 1961 the subscriptions of new applicants for membership should be increased from three to four guineas for Town Members and from two to three guineas for Country (and Overseas) Members, these amounts once more including the Magazine for which since 1958 there had been a separate subscription of £1 [1960]. That extra £1 some did not wish to pay and it was causing problems to administer. Existing members were once again invited to increase their subscriptions in line with these changes and to covenant for the increased amounts.

The membership stood at 1,658 at the end of 1960 [1961] and there was a vigorous campaign to obtain new members throughout the Jubilee Year, the September and December issues of the Magazine together listing some 250 applicants [1962]. It was hoped that the total membership might reach 2,000 by the end of 1962 [1963] but it did not quite do so [1964], only reaching that number the following year.

At this time the Executive Committee had eight sub-committees: Finance, Library, Lecture, House, Parish Register & Monumental Inscriptions, Documents, Jubilee, and Magazine & Publications [1965]. Nicholson was on five of them but at the start of the year he gave up the editorship of the Magazine and Peter Spufford took over and hoped, as he wrote, for a 'vigorous looking forward' in the Jubilee Year.

In his first editorial Spufford said that for the first time since before the war a Register of Members that included details of their interests would be published in May, a special number of the Magazine and a new edition of the Genealogists' Handbook in June, a new edition of Wills and their Whereabouts later in the year, and that there would be a Jubilee Meeting which would include a talk on the history of the Society with a Jubilee Exhibition at Westminster Abbey in July [1966]. Not all these happy prognostications actually came about! There was no Jubilee Meeting as such, the Exhibition took place at the Society, the Register of Members like everything that Steel touched was considerably delayed, [1967] and Wills and their Whereabouts, for reasons that were never explained (to the compiler, at least!), did not appear until 1963.

However, in June 1961, Spufford edited a special number of the Magazine containing a note from the President, details of the Jubilee Appeal, listings of former Presidents, Chairmen, Honorary Treasurers and Secretaries of the Society, a poor essay by L. G. Pine on 'Genealogy since Horace Round' limited entirely to the peerage and landed gentry, my long article on the 'Collections and Indexes of the Society of Genealogists', notes on 'Work in Progress' and an article by T. D. Tremlett (1905-1972) on the long awaited 'New Dictionary of British Arms'. There were photographs of the Society's former homes in the centre fold [1968]. Henry Wilfrid Gray, of Hatfield, a distinguished artist at the College of Arms and a friend of Pinhorn's, designed a special cover for this issue which incorporated the arms of the Society's six Presidents and this was used for the next ten years [1969].

In September Spufford announced that in 1962 an 'Official Section' of the Magazine, with the names and addresses of new members and accessions to the library, would be published separately 'once, or perhaps twice, each year' [1970]. Spufford wrote in March 1962 that he regarded the Magazine as firstly a magazine for genealogists 'concentrating on the interests of genealogy at large' and secondly the house journal of the Society and his intention was to divide the journal along those lines [1971]. I never cared for that distinction, believing that the Society should embody and represent the 'interests of genealogy' in every respect and I have several times criticised the present editor for frequently describing the Magazine as merely the 'house journal' of the Society. In the event a cheaply printed 'Official Section' was inserted in each quarterly issue of the Magazine but abandoned after two years. The idea was partly revived again by my successors in March 2001 and again abandoned in March 2003.

Peter Spufford was also very keen to improve the appearance of the Magazine and went to some trouble in 1962 to get proofs for a possible new cover design which would have featured an outline of the Disney scroll pedigree at Essex Record Office in pale blue or pink on a white or grey paper, overprinted in black. The committees were lukewarm and the Treasurer was firmly opposed to the idea and in February 1963 the Executive Committee put an end to the discussions by declaring that the March issue should revert to the pre-1961 cover [1972]. Sensibly, however, the new editor continued with the Jubilee design.

In December 1961 the Magazine had published a particularly unfortunate review by Cecil Humphery-Smith in which he said with regard to the Great Migration to America in the 1630s that 'the greater numbers of settlers were made up from the outcasts of British society sent from these shores for their offences against society to help boost the man-power of the English settlement' [1973]. The remarks caused no little offence and drew considerable correspondence, starting with Sir Anthony Wagner and Rodney Armstrong in New Hampshire, both rejecting the view and stating that there was no evidence to support it [1974]. Earlier that year I had contributed a note to the New England Register about the very few transported from Hertfordshire and I now drew attention to that [1975]. As our poor editor, desperately trying to pour oil on troubled waters, wrote of Humphery-Smith's reply [1976], 'This is not enough to hang the ancestors of a whole nation!' [1977].

Peter Spufford had only intended to be the editor of the Magazine for three years and in December 1962 he announced that the Executive Committee had agreed that John Sims, the Society's Librarian since February, would succeed him in the post [1978], which he did in September 1963, meanwhile assisting with the editorship of the Official Section [1979]. The Hon. Guy Strutt had also helped by editing the reviews. In his first editorial John Sims said that, 'The emphasis of the Magazine, as hitherto, will be on general genealogical techniques and sources rather than individual families, except in so far as these illustrate a particular aspect of the broad subject', and he hoped to publish as many as possible of the lectures given to the Society which were inevitably only heard by a small number of members [1980].

One aspect of the Magazine that frequently caused problems was the compilation and printing of its index. From 1938 to 1950 the indexes had formed integral parts of the Magazine, being printed instead of the last issue in each volume, though that for December 1946 did not appear until 1948 [1981]. In 1939 Mrs Blomfield had said that the printing of the index as the last part of a volume ‘has met with universal approval as it eliminates waiting in order to bind a volume’ [1982].

The index for volume 10 thus came out on time in December 1950 but this entailed preparation in advance and the writing of index slips as each issue appeared. In the chaos of the early 1950s no slips were written and the December 1954 issue contained no index. Libraries and members who wished to bind their sets complained loudly and the problem dragged on into the 1960s, no indexes being compiled. Through the generosity of the Marc Fitch Fund an index to volume 11 (1951-54) was produced in 1962 [1983] for ten shillings including postage, but in two years, of the 1,200 copies printed only 52 were sold [1984]. The Fund also paid for the separate publication of indexes to volumes 12-14 (1955-64) [1985] but that for volume 15 (1965-67), compiled by Isobel Mordy [1986], was published as part of the December issue in 1968 [1987] and from then on we made sure that the last issue in each volume was devoted to the index (even if new members complained that they did not want it!) and for several years they were compiled most efficiently by that painstaking lady [1988]. A name and place index, 1998-2000, compiled by Neville Taylor, was published in 2001 and a main subject index, 1925-2000, compiled by F. L. Leeson and C.R. Webb, in 2002, but no later volume indexes were published, our Founder Fellows turning in their graves until late in 2016 when digitised versions of the Magazine from 1925 to 2006 were published on DVD and partially recovered the situation.

In celebration of the Society's Jubilee the Chairman of the Executive Committee, Malcolm Pinhorn, hosted a reception at Harrington Gardens on 8 May 1961. The President, Lord Mountbatten, and over a hundred members attended (at 7s 6d each) and the guests included the Registrar General, the Deputy Keeper of Public Records, the Secretary of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, and representatives of the College of Arms, Guildhall Library, and the Essex, Hertfordshire, London, and Middlesex Record Offices [1989].

I remember that it was at this reception that I first met the chirpy Kenneth ‘Peter’ Townend (1921-2001), who had just succeeded L. G. Pine as Editor of Burke's Peerage and who with his remarkable memory materialised at every conceivable party or function [1990]. The strange Pine who, as he admitted, did not really approve of peers, had failed in an attempt to get into Parliament and was now editing The Shooting Times though, as he said, not approving of hunting, shooting and fishing either! [1991]. However, I was called out of the Society’s crowded Members' Room to speak to Lord Mountbatten in the hall. To our amusement he turned me in the direction of Sir Anthony Wagner whom I knew already and in view of my recent rather unsympathetic review of his great book English Genealogy (1960, £3) [1992] was not particularly anxious to see, Mountbatten cheerfully saying tp me, 'Here's someone you should know'.

In his book Wagner had seen humanity and the past as one single growing entity in which every individual was connected to every other and he had shown how extraordinarily close the classes are together [1993], but I had protested at the omission from his book of 'a good, solid, well-documented, but thoroughly labouring-class pedigree', something that Hartley Thwaite, FSA (1903-1978) [1994] who welcomed my comments, thought (in his article 'Simple Annals') not easily attainable as the documentation would be 'relatively scanty' [1995]. However, Philip N. Dawe (1910-2005) in 'Memorabilia' in Notes & Queries wrote that my criticism seemed a fair one and that one had only to peruse Hoskins's and Finberg's Devonshire Studies to see what I had in mind [1996]. I had unkindly written that such things had no meaning for Wagner who 'would rather a gateway ancestor through fifteen women to Edward III than a seize-quartiers of humble farm-workers'.

I was, however, much influenced throughout my later campaigning career by Wagner's stress that his first 'Desiderata Genealogica' was the institution of 'a form of registration of births, deaths and marriages, which would lead from one to another'. He wrote that, 'If entries which link marriage entries with the parties' baptisms or births, baptismal or birth entries with the parents' marriage, and death or burial entries with the deceased's birth and parentage have been feasible in France and Germany for three centuries or more and in Australia for one, they should by now be possible in England' [1997]. It was a simple point to which he and I returned again and again.

In the Long Vacation that year and prior to an extended trip to visit archaeological sites in Greece and Italy, I organised in connection with the Jubilee a special exhibition in the Members' Room from Monday, 17 July, to Saturday, 29 July, to illustrate some of the means by which any person could trace a pedigree, and especially the particular value of the collections of the Society [1998]. Lord Mountbatten gave it a nice puff at the AGM in May [1999]. I was responsible for the selection of items and the layout, exhibition cases being borrowed (courtesy of the County Archivist, William Le Hardy) from the Record Office at Hertford and tables from the Victory Club (courtesy of its Chairman, Sir Christopher Courtney) and I decorated the high panelled room with illuminated pedigrees and Grants of Arms and Title from the Society's collections. Admission was by a catalogue (price 2s 6d), which I also wrote and which was nicely designed by Malcolm Pinhorn. The exhibition was advertised in What’s on in London [2000] and opened by the comedian and broadcaster Gillie Potter (1887-1975), well known for this eccentric radio monologues commencing, ‘Good Evening, England’. As mentioned above he had joined the Society during the First World War when known as Lieutenant Hugh William Peel and had been on the Library Committee for a short period. The exhibition attracted nearly 400 people.

It also attracted some valuable press publicity, Philip Blake having composed a useful ‘Note to Editors’. Henry Fielding writing in the Daily Herald, and generously describing me as 'a remarkably learned young man', highlighted the fact that the base pedigree shown was that of a 60-year-old farm labourer at Walkern in Hertfordshire which had been taken back nine generations [2001]. His article was copied in the Johannesburg Star [2002]. Elsewhere the writer E. S. Turner contributed the amusing 'A convict for every man' to Punch [2003] and Donald Gomery said in the Daily Express that 'in half an hour yesterday I learned more about my family than I have known all my life'. He reported Gillie Potter's opening talk that had stressed that this was not a Society of snobs and quoted Sir Christopher Courtney saying about genealogy, 'its just a bug that bites you' [2004]. Gillie Potter's comment that genealogy could provide 'a great deal of good, clean family fun' was widely quoted [2005]. It helped, of course, that Gillie Potter had done a deal of work on the ancestry of Anthony Armstrong-Jones back to Cumberland in the thirteenth century and that Anthony Wagner had recently contributed an article to The Genealogists’ Magazine tracing Armstrong-Jones back to King Edward I [2006].

The Jubilee Lecture by the now Sir Anthony Wagner, Garter King of Arms [2007], Genealogy and the Common Man, was given in the Meeting Room of the Society of Antiquaries at Burlington House after tea on Friday, 15 December 1961, and subsequently printed [2008]. I had been at Somerset House all afternoon (it being the last day of term) and, unusually for me, I went after the lecture for drinks with Malcolm Pinhorn, Philip Blake, Don Steel and Nicholas MacMichael, the problems at the Society being high on our agenda! Wagner's talk outlined a projected 'Survey of English Surnames' to be funded by the Marc Fitch Fund and based on transcripts of the returns of the Subsidy of 1327-32, the Poll Tax of 1377-81, the Subsidy of 1524-25, the Protestation Returns of 1642, and perhaps the Hearth Tax of 1662-74 and the Census of 1851 or 1861. Sir Anthony wrote about his project in the Sunday Times saying, 'The simple fact is that the possession of ancestors is the universal birthright of mankind, while the possibility of knowing who they were is the special privilege of a large proportion of all Englishmen' [2009]. The Guardian, however, said that some would regard the whole idea 'with feelings ranging from amusement to outright distaste' [2010].

Wagner's idea was not a new one, a similar suggestion having been made by Oswald Greenwaye Knapp (1859-1947) in an article, critical of Guppy's Homes of family names in Great Britain (1890), in 1930 [2011], but this time the idea was backed by the wealth of Marc Fitch. In spite of what was said to be an overwhelming response from the public [2012] the ambitious project was slow to get off the ground. In June 1962 it was reported that Dr W. G. Hoskins and Dr P. H. Reaney were helping and that a start had been made with a grant of £50 from Essex County Council with which to photograph and transcribe the Essex Subsidy Rolls, Francis Steer, the Secretary to the Marc Fitch Fund, acting as provisional co-ordinator [2013]. In January 1963 I was interested to see that they were offering £1,000 a year for someone aged between 25 and 35, experienced in archive work, to start the initial listings in London [2014].

It was not, however, until 1965 that the scheme was established within the Department of English Local History at Leicester University. Since then a fair amount of transcription and indexing of the early returns has slowly taken place. In 1969 the first monograph, on Norfolk surnames in the sixteenth century, appeared, and in 1973 the first volume, on West Riding surnames by George Redmonds, followed by Norfolk and Suffolk surnames in the Middle Ages by Richard McKinley (1975), the surnames of Oxfordshire (1977), Lancashire (1981) [2015], Sussex (1988), Devon (1995), and Leicestershire and Rutland (1998) [2016]. This important work has not generally involved the Society though I later took a direct interest in it whilst a member of the Council of the Marc Fitch Fund.

Also in 1961 Peter Spufford and I produced a revised edition of The Genealogists' Handbook (1961) which had last appeared in 1951, doubling its size. It was so warmly received that I issued a Corrigenda of changes in 1963 [2017] and it sold out following a mention on the BBC [2018]. We produced revised and enlarged editions in 1967 and 1969, the first of these being described by Gerald Hamilton-Edwards as 'probably the best concise guide to genealogical information' available [2019]. For the September 1961 Magazine I compiled a list of the Society's collection of Poll Books showing in bold type those that were additional to the previously published list of March 1939 [2020].

In the autumn of 1961 Donald Steel produced for the first time since 1936 a Register of Members that contained a 'List of families in which members are interested' (June 1961) which had been compiled as a result of his circular in November 1960. Such an index, in card index form, had in fact been suggested to the Executive Committee by Gerald Hamilton-Edwards in February 1956 but Frank Bennett, the Secretary, no doubt prompted by Cregoe Nicholson, had then said that there had been one but it was found impracticable and could not be restarted [2021]. Indeed, the vast remains of the pre-1936 Index continued to take up valuable space in the Card Index Room and caused much fruitless inquiry for people long dead until I took a firm decision, about this time, to dispose of it.

Bernau Index, 1961

Only a month before his death on 28 December 1961 Charles Bernau had made arrangements for the transfer of his vast index of Chancery and other proceedings to the Society [2022]. For a nominal sum the Society then sold the index to the Genealogical Society of Utah on condition that it receive a positive microfilm of the slips within twelve months [2023]. The original slips, Bernau’s notebooks and the ‘correspondence’ volumes were subsequently purchased by Malcolm Pinhorn [2024].

The Society's Annual Report said that the index contained over a million slips [2025] but in reality there were about four and a half million references to Chancery material in the Public Record Office, mainly Chancery and Exchequer Court proceedings, including every litigant in Chancery in the years 1714-58. The slips, alphabetical by surname only, were contained in 1,356 cardboard boxes, each 15" long, and there were also 426 notebooks containing extracts of the suits in the C.11 series, 1714-58. The Library already possessed the valuable A Topographical Index to Chancery Depositions taken by Commission 1714-44 compiled from Bernau's notebooks by the Norwich Record Society.

The microfilms did not begin to appear in the Library until 1966 when most of those to letter 'H' were received [2026]. They were, however, not greatly used until after the publication of a useful descriptive article by Mark Hughes in 1975 [2027]. The remaining five boxes of miscellaneous notes arising from Bernau's genealogical correspondence, the majority of which was destroyed at Bernau's request, were given to the Society by Malcolm Pinhorn in November 1992. They were sorted and indexed by Isabelle Charlton (1920-2016) in 1995 and are not to be confused with Bernau's 'Correspondence' (microfilms 578-593 at the Society and indexed in his main index) described in Hilary Sharp's excellent guide, How to use the Bernau Index, which we published in 1996 [2028].

Jubilee Appeal, 1961-1965

The Chairman, Malcolm Pinhorn, had launched a Golden Jubilee Appeal Fund by letter dated 11 April and through the Magazine in June 1961, aiming to produce £20,000 of which £10,000 might be used to purchase a long extension of the lease on 37 Harrington Gardens and the remainder on the library, the acceleration of parish register copying, and the building up of a fund for publications [2029]. In the event the sum received was very disappointing and had reached only £1,200 by the end of the year when, together with £500 from the year's surplus, it was transferred to the Leasehold Reserve Fund created in 1959 [2030], which then stood at £3,200 [2031].

In 1961 the owners of the house offered reasonable terms for an extension of the lease to 2030, but before accepting the offer it was necessary to secure an extension of the user permit (already held until June 1970) for the same period. The London County Council refused to grant this extension, but an appeal to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, followed by a public enquiry, was successful. The appeal was heard at Kensington Town Hall on 28 June 1961, the Society being represented by counsel, assisted by Sir Christopher Courtney and the Society's solicitor, Douglas B. G. Gabriel (1915-1988) [2032]. As he mentioned at the AGM in May, Lord Mountbatten had written a letter in support of the Society [2033].

Unfortunately, whilst all this was going on the ownership of the house changed hands and the offer of a new lease was withdrawn pending the settlement of difficult estate duty matters [2034]. For some time the situation remained quite unclear. In the years 1962-64 the whole of the Campbell Estate in South Kensington, apart from W. S. Gilbert's former house next door to the Society, was sold to cover death duties, many of the original 90-year leases being then about to expire [2035]. With the growth in membership and other factors, including research, however, the Leasehold Reserve Fund had increased to £6,000 by the end of 1963 [2036] and to £10,000 by the end of 1965 [2037].

Wills and Their Whereabouts, 1960-1963

The stock of Helen Thacker's additions to Bethell Bouwens' Wills and their whereabouts sold out whilst I was working at the Society and when at University in 1960 I began to collect material for a completely new edition which would reflect the many movements of probate records since the War, provide up-to-date details of the records and their published indexes and abstracts, and extend the book's coverage to include Scotland, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. In this major task I managed to obtain the cooperation of the majority of archivists in the British Isles and of a wide variety of persons with specialised knowledge, corresponding with some seventy-four individuals, but the work involved was very considerable, all the published volumes and articles mentioned being carefully scanned for possible additional information. I remember the Irish genealogist Michael Leader saying that he was surprised that some of the archivists in his native country could write!

There was at that time no clear idea as to who would publish the book but I was much encouraged in the project by Russell Muirhead, the editor of the Blue Guides and a director of Ernest Benn Limited which was about to publish a new edition of Arthur Willis's Genealogy for Beginners under the title Introducing Genealogy (1961). However, Muirhead was unable to persuade his co-directors to take the book and members of the Publications Committee at the Society involving themselves we drifted into a loose arrangement with Malcolm Pinhorn at Phillimore & Co that the firm would publish it on behalf of the Society. I was told that I would receive a royalty of 6d and the Society of 1s on a book of unspecified price [2038].

I took the proofs to Blandford for a week in September 1961 to check them through with John Phillips and they were returned in November. It was then sai