Kent Family History Society

Deal & District Branch

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February 10th 2015

The first of our meetings this year brought us Richard Filmer, giving a talk entitled "Traditional Kentish trades, Crafts and Industries." This proved to be a fascinating and well-presented talk with lots of wonderful slides to illustrate both the trades and the people who carried them out. So much of what we saw underlined why Kent got its name as the garden of England.  Sadly many of the crafts shown have now been overtaken by the march of modernisation, and the associated skills will be lost, though not it would seem those of the Wheelwright. How pleasing to hear that there is still a company in the county looking after such iconic vehicles as the carriages for royalty and The Lord Mayor of London. Perhaps those who lived near the tanneries will be less sorry to see that traditional industry disappearing though – phew

March 10th 2015

Timothy Cox gave us an entertaining and thought provoking talk on the subject of soldier’s wives and the hardships and trial that they suffered – not always for love but often as a necessity for survival. Their life was very insecure and remarriage was often the only way to survive. The married quarters – or lack thereof, made us wonder how any of them managed to raise families in those circumstances.


April 14th 2015

Our meeting this month was a special one marking the 15th Anniversary of the branch, and the guest speaker was Dr. Geoff Swinfield. The theme of his talk was helping to breakdown the inevitable “brick walls” we all encounter at some stage during the course of our research and was entitled “I’m stuck: breaking down brick walls”. Clearly, from the reaction of those present, this proved to be a fascinating and valuable session. Geoff took us through the process of establishing what basic information we might have and then applying that to looking at different ways of utilising the search facilities of some of the well-known sites; together with exploring some of the less well known on-line sites. Certainly there are a vast amount of records discoverable on the internet, but it needs evenings like this learn of their existence and to help find them.

May 12th 2015

Branch AGM  

This month we started with our Branch AGM before listening to a talk on web sites given by our own Pat Smith. The talk proved to be a very worthwhile evening for all who attended, whether fairly new to research or researchers of some long standing, and was accompanied by a hand-out containing a number of useful sites. The need to take a hard copy of relevant information, or otherwise capture it, due to the speed with which sites can change or disappear was a timely reminder; as was being wary of finding oneself paying via some sites for what is freely available. Many thanks Pat for another excellent talk.

June 9th 2015

Members' meeting: "Meet my Ancestor."

Following the success of our December meeting when four members each gave a short talk on a particular piece of their family research, we repeated that format again this month. Our thanks this time go to Sylvia Latham, Beverley Whitefoord, Margaret Wills and Trevor Isaac for allowing us a glimpse into their family and the various ways in which they carried out their research. Having the opportunity to view documents, heirlooms and the like, kindlybrought to the meeting, added an extra dimension to these talks. It is amazing how difficult our ancestors manage to make our efforts to track them and their passage through life! Transport may not have been as we know it today but, as we were shown, that didn’t seem to stop them moving about the country or abroad if they so desired.

July 14th 2015

The speaker this month was David Annal who, using the title "Lost in London," gave us a very useful talk about how to approach the challenge of finding information on relatives within London. From the basic point of checking what would constitute London at the time our relatives might have been living in the area (the boundaries have grown extensively over the past two centuries), we were provided with numerous possibilities through the web sites, maps, books and other research material that is available. As so often with research the key is knowing where to find the wealth of information that is out there, and this talk went a long way to providing answers to that issue. From the reaction of those present, and the questions that followed the talk, it was clear our speaker was much appreciated.

August 11th 2015

Helen Dafter of the British Postal Museum & Archive was our guest speaker this month and her talk proved to be both fascinating and amusing. We were given a brief overview of the history of the postal service from its inception in 1636 at the behest of Charles I through to its present status. Helen then spent time explaining the various records held at the archives which could be of benefit to family historians through such things as Pension Records, Appointment Records and Minute Books. The archives are open Monday to Friday from 10.00 – 17.00 with a later closing time on Thursday of 19.00. There will be a change in the autumn with Monday’s being closed while work is done to prepare for a move to new premises. Whilst prior appointments are not required, ID needs to be taken.

September 8th 2015

The speaker for this month was David Wood who gave a talk entitled Why We Should Remember Them. This excellent talk was both thought provoking and moving. David took us on a journey of discovery that he made regarding members of his family who lost their lives as a result of military service. The various sources of information available, National Archives Military Records, Newspapers (local, national and overseas), Web sites (Commonwealth War Graves, FMP and Ancestry) and how to access/use them was clearly illustrated by this very personal story. Whether relatively new to research or an old hand, there was plenty to take from the evening.

October 13th 2015

They Dared to be Doctors was the title of this month’s talk given by Toni Mount, and what a fascinating talk it turned out to be. Listening to the trials and tribulations of women in the nineteenth century seeking to achieve a career in medicine as they fought to overcome the prejudices of the time gave us all a lot to think about. Indeed, from comments made at the end of the talk, some present might say that continued through the twentieth century. This excellently put together talk primarily featured the lives of Elizabeth Blackwell and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (those Garrett sisters were three forceful ladies), following an initial teaser with a summary of the life of James Barry. Those present were clearly caught up by the talk which is highly recommended to other branches looking for speakers.

November 10th 2015

The November meeting saw the return of our own Bill Beer to give a talk entitled Life in and out of the Workhouse, basing the programme on the admissions register of St. Mary’s workhouse in Dover. A number of us find family members who have had to spend time in these institutions, and so this talk helped to better understand some of the aspects around their experiences.  Following the lives of a selection of the people who passed through that particular workhouse it was clear to see how difficult it was to break the cycle of poverty, something we see examples of even to this day. One began to see the differences between the “deserving poor” and the “undeserving poor” as some entries showed those using the system as opposed to needing the system. The structure of the workhouse system was clearly intended to be harsh and a driver to getting those unfortunate enough to need the assistance back to supporting themselves.

This was a well presented evening and provoked much discussion and questioning of our speaker, always a good sign that people have the talk interesting and informative. Much appreciated Bill. 

December 8th 2015

For this, the last meeting before the Christmas and New Year break, the emphasis was on making the evening more of a social occasion and the title for the meeting was “Where and What? Can you Tell?” Those attending split into groups and attempted to identify a range of images relating to documents we come across during the course of our research, and photos of places within the branch area. To tease the mind all images were cropped to ensure identification was not too easy; it’s surprising how much we miss of the detail in what we see. To aid the Christmas spirit, mince pies were available to help feed the brain cells. Many thanks go to the cooks. The reaction of those present indicated that the efforts of the team organising the event were much appreciated, and all had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.