Kent Family History Society

Deal & District Branch

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Tuesday 11th February 2014

Sheila Harris, one of our committee, gave an account of research into Major Kirkby Robinson who, while born in Yorkshire, ended up as Medical Director for Dover and district from 1873 until his death in 1816. A variety of information had been gathered using only online sources such as newspaper reports and professional records as well as the more usual parish registers and censuses.

Tuesday 11th March 2014

Dr David Wright gave us a very informative and thought provoking talk on Birth, Marriage and Death certificates and their trustworthiness. He highlighted several possible sources of error and showed that the certificates are not always a totally reliable source, demonstrating these with examples from his own researches. The talk was extremely useful for those who were relative beginners but even the more experienced amongst us found it useful. 

Tuesday 1st April 2014 (see also Pictures tab)

Twelve members visited Westenhanger castle on a lovely sunny and warm afternoon. Everyone had an enjoyable afternoon and all commented that there was a lot more of the buildings still standing than they had realised. Terry Whitling, who was our guide, explained in great detail about the history of the Castle and it's barns etc. and also all the renovation work going on. Due to a possible change of ownership this may be one of the last group visits to take place but we could all recommend it to anyone who has chance.

Tuesday 8th April 2014

David Wood came to talk to us on “Useful websites for Family History” This talk was given with the aid of screenshots and all agreed that it was very useful and discussion of members favourite sites followed on. We are all aware of the huge amount of information available online nowadays but revisiting the subject proved very informative and David cited the example of members of his own family to demonstrate using these sites

Tuesday 13th May 2014

This was our AGM. Two of our longstanding members resigned, Alan Foster and Jenny Noake, we thanked them for their service over the years and welcomed two new members, Peter Rose and Alf Graham to our committee in their place. Pat smith was elected Secretary and Sheila Harris vice Chairman.

The AGM was followed by Peter Ewart “Lucky me, my Ancestor is an Ag Lab” Some of us had thought this was a sarcastic title but Peter showed us how much easier it can be to trace your Ag Lab ancestors using court records and poor law documents, overseers accounts etc, than it could be to find details about ancestors who were possibly of more elevated status, therefore those of us (all of us?) with Ag labs were truly lucky. 

Tuesday 10th June 2014

The June meeting saw the return of Terry Whitling who gave a talk on the life and family of Thomas Customer Smythe. Linked to his research work concerning Westenhanger Castle, Terry has spent over 7 years tracing the Smythe family and presented a detailed talk on this remarkable family. Taking us through Thomas’s entrepreneurial skills, which led him to his position collecting the customs dues (and thus the name by which he became known), to links to Tonbridge School, imprisonment in the Tower of London, participation in the project leading to the settlement of Jamestown in the USA, amongst many other highs and lows within that family over a span of some 400 years, proved a fascinating journey for us all.   

Tuesday 8th July 2014

The speaker this month was Toni Mount who drew a good attendance and gave us an informative and sometimes amusing talk entitled “Mrs Beeton’s Summer Picnic”. The talk in fact covered considerably more than just her recipes, giving us a more detailed insight into her upbringing and family life. She would seem to have been a determined character whose life was sadly cut short at the young age of 28 and contained a measure of sadness alongside the great success of her book on home management. From the details of the picnic recipes it is quite clear the Victorians were not as focused on an obesity crisis as we are today!

Tuesday 12th August 2014

Our thanks this month go to our guest speaker Dr. Jean Stirk who provided us with an insight to the workings and language of the Manorial Courts. The talk was supported by handouts showing a variety of extracts from old records, and finished with a short period of role play to illustrate the proceedings that took place at a typical monthly court hearing. The servile nature of life in that period provided a certain amount of amusement to those of us present. These records were shown to provide another useful source for gaining information about the way of life our ancestors lived, and could help to trace those elusive members of our family not readily found in the BMD records.  The questions and discussion at the end of the session showed clearly that those present found the talk interesting and informative. 

Sept 9th 2014

At the meeting this month we welcomed back as our speaker a long standing friend of the branch, Meryl Catty. The title of her talk was Dudfins, Langles and Scummers, which trips nicely off the tongue, and proved to be ‘code’ for a look at the value of exploring probate records of our ancestors. By taking us through the details of one of her own ancestors, Meryl gave us a clear and amusing look at the life and times of a seventeenth century family. As so often happens when exploring our ancestors the more we learn the more questions it raises, and this example proved no different. We were reminded to make judgements on the basis of the values of the time, not those of the present day. Our thanks once again for providing another enlightening talk, and we look forward to Meryl’s next visit whenever that may be.

Oct 14th 2014

Chris McCooey returned this month to deliver a talk which he originally entitled Socio-Geographical Aspects of Illicit Trading in Kent in the 18th century; fortunately we were able to listen to it as Smuggling on the South Coast.

Taking us from the early days of illegal exporting of raw wool to the continent, through to the importing of luxury goods to avoid tax, to the eventual recognition in the 19th century by government of the need to create a stronger deterrent, this talk was given in his usual entertaining style. Chris took us away from the romantic illusion sometimes evoked by this subject, explaining the reality of the organised gangs involved and the methods they employed, the Hawkhurst Gang being a case in point. This was an interesting evening for all who attended.

Nov 11th 2014

The speaker for the meeting this month was Bill Beer, and the content of his presentation was particularly poignant being it was the 11th of the month. Using the service details of his grandfather and his own imaginings, it gave us all an opportunity to reflect on the experience of service on the front line and helped to focus our minds on the impact on family life and how fickle life can be.  A moving evening and as a number of those present commented, the care put in and the personal detail included were worthy of a wider audience and, they would gladly recommend to other branches should they be interested. Our thanks go to Bill for this thought provoking session.

Dec 9th 2014

Awaiting report from branch