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Daylight Robbery Print
Monday, 23 December 2013 00:00

altControversy over new forms of taxation is not just a modern phenomenon. King William III introduced the Window Tax in 1696 as an alternative to income tax, which was considered by many people at the time to be an unacceptable governmental intrusion into private matters, and a potential threat to personal liberty. How things have changed!

The window tax resulted in many property owners bricking up windows in their houses and rooms would be plunged into darkness, hence the phrase "Daylight Robbery."

Picture: A house in Portland Street, Southampton, with bricked-up spaces in place of windows. Courtesy of Gary Burt,

Hero in your family Print
Thursday, 06 June 2013 09:18

military-recordD-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy, is still remembered with much emotion almost 70 years after the event. Perhaps because we can still touch and speak to the people who were alive during those critical years, perhaps because it was our parents or grandparents who were the heroes of the hour, the ones who put their lives on the line so that we would have the liberty that we now enjoy.

Co-incidentally, it was just a few days ago that I received my Grandfather's WWII records in the mail, having taken many months to reach me. Grandad had never spoken of his war-time experiences to me and I knew him only as a gently-spoken man, with very soft blue eyes, who doted on his family. It was a suprise to find out that he had served as a Gunner in the Royal Artillery and was one of the survivors of the Battle of Dunkirk.

My favourite excerpt from the papers I received was a reference written for him as he returned to work as a Signalman on the Railways. It read:

"Exemplary conduct. A good, hard worker who has proved himself above the general average. His driving has been faultless and he has gained a good basis of wireless knowledge. He is smart in appearance, of clean habits and always ready to learn."

Well done, Grandad! We're all still so proud of you and what you sacrificed for us.


Currently, WWII records can only be obtained by the next of kin. If you would like details of how to apply for your ancestor's file, please give us a call on 0203 1371596.

Reading the Riot Act Print
Wednesday, 01 May 2013 00:00

The Riot Act (1713) was an Act of the Parliament that authorized local authorities to declare any group of twelve or more people to be unlawfully assembled, and thus have to disperse or face punitive action. The Act came into force on 1 August 1715, and remained on the statute books until 1973.

It had to be read out to the gathering concerned, and had to follow precise wording detailed in the act; several convictions were overturned because parts of the proclamation had been omitted, in particular "God save the King".

If a group of people failed to disperse within one hour of the proclamation, the act provided that the authorities could use force to disperse them. Anyone assisting with the dispersal was specifically indemnified against any legal consequences in the event of any of the crowd being injured or killed.

Real life Heroes Print
Friday, 01 March 2013 10:54

altThis week we have been researching the story of the Rask – a Norwegian Cargo Ship that was wrecked off the coast of Scremerston, Northumberland in January 1950.

Our investigations took us to the Woodhorn Museum and the Heritage Hub where newspaper archives were scoured in search of articles about the dramatic rescue and the awards which some of the Coastguard crew received afterwards.

Huge waves and freezing conditions were fought for over 12 hours by the rescuers, who were mainly volunteers, until all of the 19 crew on board were safely ashore, using breeches buoy equipment.

Newspaper articles report some fascinating details including the local Farmer, Lambert Carmichael, who used his Jeep to help secure the landing ropes and Sidney Young, a Colliery Storeman who used the headlamps of the Jeep to signal to the crew of the vessel in Morse Code.

In a full-page article on the rescue, the Berwickshire News wrote:

“As the last man was brought ashore a cheer broke out from both sightseers and helpers, and the North-East Divisional Officer, Commander C. A. de W. Kitcat, turned to his men and said: “FULL MARKS, GOOD SHOW!”

Several of the rescuers were taken to hospital after the gruelling event, suffering from exhaustion and injuries sustained in the water.

Later, Berwick Coastguard Station Officer, George Heppell, aged 58, received the M.B.E. for his efforts and outstanding services rendered to the coastguard services over many years. He said, “I am very proud to receive the award. It was quite unexpected, as I have only tried to do my duty for the Service as I saw it. It is pleasing to know that your work is noticed and appreciated.”

A Welcome Ghost from the Past Print
Friday, 04 January 2013 13:17

altA few days ago, my clever husband presented me with an mp3 which reduced me to tears. He had rescued and re-formatted a cassette-tape recording of my dear Grandma, interviewed by yours truly many, many years ago when I was still a teenager; long before I had even dreamt of becoming a Family Historian. I asked her about war-time London, her home throughout the forties, and food – a favourite topic of hers! She related stories about rationing, recalling the amounts and prices of all the commodities that were allowed. She told me how she used to make sausage pies using the fat from the top of the tinned sausagemeat to make the pastry (click here to listen to her voice!) and all about how wonderful powdered egg was.

It was so moving and fascinating to hear her voice again – her little chuckle when she remembered a small pleasure such as drawing stocking seams on her legs with an eyebrow pencil; and her Londoner’s lilt as she recalled trying to find a relative’s house amongst the bomb-flattened streets.

In this day of camera phones and home movies we have more opportunities than ever to record the generations that lived before we were born – we no longer need to sit Grandma down next to a plugged-in cassette recorder and conduct a formal interview. But how many of us actually put these treasures away safely, to be re-discovered 30 or 40 years later? To recover a glimpse of departed loved ones; a photograph, a gesture or just a well-worn phrase is a truly precious experience and one which I encourage you to invest in now, before they disappear. Become your family’s very own historian and archivist and create something that will bring a tear to the eyes of those that come after you.

Karrie Drake

Why research your Family History? Print

altOver the years, we have helped many people answer the question: "Who were my ancestors?" We are very interested in the reasons why so many people want to find out about their family tree right now and here are just a few that we have found:

  1. My grandparents have just died and I realised that all their knowledge would be lost about our family.
  2. I have a photo of Grandad in the army and I want to know more.
  3. I want to know why my father never talked about his past.
  4. I want to find a living relative.
  5. My son is getting married and I want him to be proud of his history.
  6. Mum and Dad have everything they need but I want a special gift for their wedding anniversary.
  7. My daughter lives with her mother but I wanted her to know about my side of the family.
  8. I want to put everything in order so I can hand it down.
  9. I want to know where I get my musical talent from!
  10. I think I might be related to Lord Byron / Charles Wesley / the Vanderbilts.

There are several times when we have had the privilege of presenting someone with answers to questions they have held onto all their lives; for others we have introduced them to their last living relative or helped them to heal a rift which occured generations before. For a few we have found photographs of ancestors they had never seen before or barely remembered from childhood. Such moments are truly priceless.

Christmas is coming! Print
Thursday, 13 September 2012 09:23

altWe know you don't want to think about Christmas just yet but imagine the joy on the faces of your loved ones if you were to give them one of our beautiful and unique Family Histories this year!

The really special gifts just take that little bit of extra planning . . .

Detailed and clearly laid out, packed full of information about individual members of your family with photos of the places they lived and information about the jobs they did, our histories will provide fascination the whole year through!

And you'll feel so pleased with yourself for having made a start on the Christmas Shopping in September!

Contact us today: 0203 1371596

platinum package

Who's in my Family Tree? Print
Wednesday, 15 August 2012 16:25

We are often asked by clients if we can find a link to a famous person or even royalty! This week we were asked whether this heroic figure was amongst our client's ancestors:

Sir John William Alcock KBE, DSC
(5 November 1892 – 18 December 1919)

“Captain Jack Alcock” was a Captain in the Royal Air Force who, together with navigator, Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown, piloted the first non-stop transatlantic flight from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Clifden, Connemara, Ireland.

Jack spent his early life in the Fallowfield area of Manchester, and when he left school became an apprentice at the Empress Motor Works on Stockport Road, in Longsight, which built aeroplanes and rotary engines. He became interested in flying at the age of 17, and gained his pilot’s license in November 1912.

Alcock became an experienced military pilot and instructor during World War I with the Royal Naval Air Service, although he was shot down during a bombing raid and taken prisoner in Turkey. While stationed at Moudros on Lemnos he conceived and built a fighter aircraft out of the remains of other crashed aircraft and this came to be known as the Alcock Scout.

After the war, Alcock wanted to continue his flying career and took up the challenge of attempting to be the first to fly directly across the Atlantic. Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown took off from St John’s, Newfoundland, on 14 June 1919, and landed in Derrygimla bog near Clifden, Ireland, 16 hours and 12 minutes later. The flight had been much affected by bad weather, making accurate navigation difficult; the intrepid duo also had to cope with turbulence, instrument failure and ice on the wings. The flight was made in a modified Vickers Vimy bomber, and won a £10,000 prize offered by London’s Daily Mail newspaper for the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic.

A few days after the flight both Alcock and Brown were honoured with a reception at Windsor Castle during which King George V knighted them and invested them with their insignia as Knight Commanders of the Order of the British Empire.

Praise for Family Detective Print
Friday, 08 June 2012 08:58
"When I first approached Family Detective to help piece together my ancestry, my knowledge of my own family tree consisted of a few sheets of paper hidden away in an old drawer... Now I am enriched with more insight and data than I ever could have wished for, including beautifully presented folders containing fascinating genealogies, war stories and pictures that bring to life that history in a magical way.
Karrie and her team are diligent, hard working and thorough in their approach. They are always on hand to take any questions and make sure you feel supported every step of the way. Inevitably the research has thrown up further areas for investigation and there begins the journey of discovery which will keep me occupied for many years to come."
Duncan Combe, Ditton.
Heritage Quest - Where were my ancestors in 1948? Print
Monday, 21 May 2012 09:17

When the Olympic games were last held in London, in 1948, the flame was lifted into the shadow of the looming Cold War. With the end of the Second World War still very clearly etched on the minds of the British people, Philip Noel-Baker, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, hoped that the games would ‘bring the youth of every continent together and to form by these friendly contests lasting links between them and so to make less likely the hateful contests of international war.’ Sadly, his hope for reconcilliation was destroyed when Stalin's road and rail blockades in Berlin began the division of Eastern and Western Europe.

Caught in the middle of two international conflicts, the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, the games organisers had to overcome huge political obstacles such as whether to invite Germany and Japan and how to deal with the Soviet's annexing of formerly independant countries such as Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.

Even the motto for the games reflected British preoccupation with war -- an element of life which must have dominated the hearts and minds of that generation:

"The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part. The essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well."

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