Saturday, 31 May 2014

Guilds and Apprenticeships

If your ancestors were craftsmen, they most likely belonged to a Guild, which were popular all over Europe in the Middle Ages. There were two types of guilds, Merchant Guilds for traders, and Craft Guilds, for the artisans.  The Guild set the prices and standards of goods.  This protected not only the craftsman but the buyers as well.  Most major towns had a Guildhall, where the members met and conducted business, and where taxes were paid. If you didn’t belong to a guild it would be nearly impossible to get work. The guild members took care of their own.  When a person got sick he and his family were taken care of, and when one died the Guild would help with the funeral expenses.

While researching the Monpetit family for a friend, I found Francois Maupetit in the early 1600’s Fontenay, France. He was a master tailor and draper, who took on several apprentices over the years.  He bought a preferred spot in “Les Halles” (the merchant guildhall) at the forefront of the drapers section for £40, paid in cash.

When a person became a Master at his craft, he took on apprentices, and provided them with food, shelter and instruction. The masters oversaw the work of the apprentices and were responsible for buying the raw materials for the craft. Depending on the craft an apprenticeship would last up to 12 years. The apprentice had to make items, or essay pieces, as a test to pass his apprenticeship, and the pieces were graded by the essay master of the Guild.  When the apprentice passed he became a freeman and could open his own shop.

My ancestor, James Tait of Edinburgh became a goldsmith apprentice to George Yorstoun, goldsmith and Burgess, in Mar 1694 and was pronounced a freeman in May 1704. He became a master of his trade and was essay master to many young apprentices. Some of his pieces are in the Museum of Scotland today.

In Scotland it was necessary to join a guild then gain a burgess ticket to become a freeman of the burgh. A widow was permitted to take over her husband’s burgess membership and pass it to her son, as a woman could pass her father’s membership to her husband. The Burgess Rolls contained information on all its members, such as marriages and deaths, as well as apprenticeships.
For the United States, search the “Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands” at They contain actual documents and there are some apprenticeships and work records.  Also letters of complaint from parents that their children are being held without consent.

Relevant Links:

Maltmen of Glasgow – lots of names in index

Burgess laws of Dundee (w/glossary in back) 1872

Goldsmiths and their marks – England, Scotland, Ireland 1905

Anything about Boots, Shoes - Repairing, Apprenticeships (scroll down for a list)

Guild of Handicraft – beautiful examples – like a small catalogue

Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872  Delaware and Maryland(actual records and names) (+ more states)

Arts, trades, manners, and customs of the Chinese - as suggested by an examination of the articles comprising the Chinese Museum - Boston 1845

United Company of Merchants of England, trading to the East-Indies (names)

Scots-Dutch Links in Europe and America, 1575-1825 (Burgess Rolls - limited search) Book available through Family History Centers.  Also at Ancestry.

The Original Lists of persons of quality; emigrants; religious exiles;political rebels; serving men sold for a term of years; apprentices; children stolen; maidens pressed; and others who went from Great Britain to the American Plantations, 1600-1700

Book of Trades – (also in Occupations links) – by Dutch Artist Jan Luyken: click each one

Friday, 30 May 2014

The Great Depression

Soon after the stock market crash in 1929, came the Great Depression.

There won’t be links to records for this article, but it is not a time to be skipped over. It was not just something that happened in Canada and the US, it rocked the World! Those in the know thought it would be over in a trice, but it lasted a decade….. 1929-1940. Three generations of my family lived during this trying time….. my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. It formed how they thought and lived.

When I was a teenager I got a run in one of my stockings.  My grandmother offered to darn it. What?? No way was I going to a dance or party wearing a mended stocking, thank you very much!  Now I am older and hopefully wiser, I can appreciate why she offered and wanted to teach me to not waste a perfectly wearable stocking.

My father had a habit of always leaving a small mouthful of food on his plate after every meal.  One day I asked him why he did this, especially since we kids had to eat every scrap before leaving the table.  He said his mother taught him that, for when he was invited to eat at someone’s house. If he left just that much it showed that it was a very tasty meal (after all, he ate most of it) but that he had had enough and just couldn’t possibly eat the last bite.  I was very moved.

In North America itself the depression era sent many people down the road to poverty. Families lost their homes and moved in with other relatives. Anyone who could get a few days’ work, worked – even children.  My grandfather headed west after hearing a tip that there was work to be had, leaving his wife and children living with her mother. There was no work when he got there, and he came home more dejected. It must have been hard on a man whose duty it was to provide for and protect his family. I’m sure we all heard stories of the depression, how inventive and scrappy the people had to be just to survive. Work and food were both scarce. People formed long lines for what little there was of both. Heirlooms and art were sold for the next family meal.   

Your local library or Historical Society may have records pertaining to people and events of this era.  I have listed below a few sites of interest.

Relevant Links

Great Depression in Canada (PDF to download)

The Dust Bowl (trailer of film – check out rest of the site too)

Route 66 (Click on the state Rte sign for that area)

Dirty Thirties Desperadoes: Forgotten Victims of the Great Depression (free ebook)

Thursday, 29 May 2014


Living in an area where there is a shipwreck every nautical mile, I forget sometimes they are not just a draw for divers from all over the world. Was one of your ancestors aboard a sinking ship?

A hundred years ago today, on May 29, 1914, the Empress of Ireland on its way from Quebec City to Liverpool collided with the SS Storstad on the St. Lawrence River, sinking within minutes. A total of 1,012 passengers and crew members aboard perished.
On May 1, 1915 the RMS Lustiana left New York for Liverpool and off the shore of Ireland on May 7th the ship was torpedoed by a German U-Boat. The ship sank within minutes taking the lives of 1201 men, women and children.

The most well-known disaster was the sinking of the RMS Titanic when it collided with an iceberg on April 14, 1912, four days after leaving Southampton UK bound for New York. More than 1500 people died in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic Sea.

the "Bording Pass" I received to view the Titanic Artifact Exhibition was in the name of Mme Juliette LaRoche, who boarded in France and was ravelling to Haiti with her usband and two daughters.  Her husband was Joseph Philippe Lemericer LaRoche, born to a wealthy family in Haiti, hoping to get a better paying job in his home country. I walked in Juliette's shoes as I wandered through this magnificent and emotional exhibit, seeing what may have been their 2nd class accomodations, the dishes they ate from, and the many personal items that had been carried by her and her fellow passengers. If you haven't yet seen the exhibit, I highly recommend it. 

Another preventable disaster was that of The Sultana, a Mississippi River steamboat that left Vicksburgh on the way to St Louis carrying over 2400 passengers – a ship that was meant to carry only 376 people. Most of the passengers were Union soldiers just released from Confederate prison camps near the end of the civil war.  On April 27, 1865, just a few miles after leaving Memphis the boilers exploded. The casualties were estimated to be about 1800 men.

In the 1800’s there were many lesser-known shipwrecks that, while their casualties were not in the thousands, they had been carrying beloved ancestors of someone.

Relevant Links:

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Poor as a church mouse

Growing up I had heard the expression “You’re going to put me in the poor house!” but I never knew what it meant exactly until I started doing genealogy.  From the records you will see most are women, some old and some with young children.  Perhaps their husband died, or left them, or they didn’t have one to begin with.  Some are men, perhaps old or sick. All of them are there as a last resort! You will see from some of the letters that the conditions were often terrible.  But it wasn’t all bad and the workhouses and poorhouses saved thousands of lives over the years.

The Women's Christian Temperance Union began in the USA in 1873 and within the year spread to Canada and soon to Australia, and other countries. These women believed that alcohol was the root of all evil and they fought for prohibition. Besides alchohol their other issues were women’s sufferage, child labour, and prostitution. You can check at local branches for archived membership books and roll calls. Today they still strive to help people get out of the loop of alchohol and drug abuse.  

pages at McCord Museum website

The McCord Museum in Montreal has a hand written register of over 3000 entries of people who passed through their doors on Dorchester Street in Montreal. The above is a page from their register.



Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Do the Crime, Do the Time

Do you have an ancestor who was naughty?  Or downright criminal? Can’t find an ancestor on an early census… did you check the jails? There are many sites on the internet of judicial proceedings where we can look for our ancestor’s name.

In Quebec before 1760 the head of the Militia of the parish usually settled petty crimes and everyday disputes among neighbours. He was under the supervision of the local Intendant.  The more serious crimes were heard by the "juridiction royale" in Quebec City, Montreal or Trois-Rivieres. The books “Inventaire des Ordonnances des Intendants” 1705-1760 are on Internet Archive in 4 separate volumes, or 2 books with Vol 1-2 together and Vol 3-4 together. After 1760 the Quebec Justice system was slowly introduced.  You can check each  other province archives to see how to access what records they have. has a list of websites to check US prison record databases. Other books with criminal records can be found at Internet Archive, search Patent Rolls, criminal, crimes. Disputes over a bit of land, bankruptcy, petty theft, murder. 

I didn't find any criminal skeletons in my closet - how about you?

Court records hold other data besides criminal. They may contain records of deeds, marriage contracts and wills. At Internet Archive search using keywords "circuit court, court rolls, criminal" etc.

Check local archives for "chancery court" records and "Cases of Equity". These are about cases concerning land, wills, slaves, and family/neighbor disputes.

Relevant Links
Personnes incarcérées dans les prisons de Québec au 19e siècle

Court Records Book A, 1664-1812 (Crimes, licenses, deeds, etc) Hampden County, MA

Hampshire County (MA) Court records (several volumes)

US County Clerk Court Records - by state

Prison Life and Reflections 1851 –  life in Missouri Penitentiary

Capital Punishment UK – hangings, executions, etc

Victoria,Australia – Court Records database

Prisoners and Convicts – Victoria, Australia from 1850+

Graham Maxwell Ancestry - Prison Register Database


Monday, 26 May 2014

What about the Children?

All of us who have children worried when they were young about who would look after them if something happened to us, the parents. These days it is a less likely scenario than in our ancestor’s time.

In Britain when a father or widow died leaving minor children, relatives usually took in the children. Sometimes the court appointed a guardian or curator to look after the children’s interests until they were 21. If a child was under marriageable age (12 for girls and 14 for boys), guardianship was called "tuition." If the child was of marriageable age but under 21, it was called "curation." See Court of Wards and Liveries.

In Quebec when one parent died there was often someone appointed to look after the interests of the children of the marriage, especially if the widow(er) wanted to marry.  Some of these records are online at BANQ (link below) with images of the actual documents (in French). See instructions at the end.

In the 1800’s society didn’t know what to do with all the orphans running the streets or overflowing the orphanages, so they came up with a plan to farm them out – literally.  To ship them to farm families to help with the work. There are several websites that tell of the plight of these children.

I also found a couple of books you might enjoy. One is a book on child rearing from 1748.  The other is a book of children stories, that teach a lesson, from 1800.  There are 6 Volumes in the series.

Relevant Links:

Orphan Train Info – Children’s Aid Society

The Duplessis Orphans (no database, most still living)

Delaware Orphan Court Records, 1680-1978 (Browse)

A modern plan upon which the minds and manners of youth may be formed - 1748

Quebec Court Records – Guardianships (see instructions below)

Note: To do a search in Quebec guardianship records at Banq, type in the word Tutelle and the surname.  Click on any of the results and at the top right click “Voir les images” and it has the number of pages. To download the images go to the icons at top of the page. There is a red X (close), then the print button, then the download (Téléchargement) button, then the Référence button, which when clicked gives you the source. 

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Serendipity Sunday - Some Came Calling...

While doing research on Death Cards last week, I came across sites that reminded me of another custom.

What started in China in the 15th Century, spread throughout Europe in the 17th century and soon after made its way to the United States, was the custom of the Calling Card. This was the forerunner to the Trade Card, which was a form of advertising for a tradesman, and led to the modern day business card. You can read about the history and etiquette of calling cards in some of the links below. Some cards were fancy-schmancy in all their Victorian glory, and others were plain with just the person’s name.  The cards were carried around in a special case (silver, mother-of-pearl, etc) and left on a calling card tray on a table in the foyer by the door.

Personal Calling Cards were also popular among groups like the Masons, with their symbol and the address of their order. This custom of personal cards has continued in modern days, especially among travelers. While RVing we made cards with a photo of our RV and included our email address and cell phone number.  These were exchanged on our travels and at RV parks with people we met that we would like to keep in touch with. The same with the Sailing Set.  Whether they sail around the Islands or around the world people have cards to leave with new friends they meet at the docks or anchored in the bays.

Check the eBay link below, mayhap you’ll discover a card bearing your ancestor's name!
Relevant Links:
Calling Cards and Etiquette

Styles of Calling Cards

Nice collection of Cases and Trays (someone on Pinterest)

Printable Victorian Calling Cards


Saturday, 24 May 2014


What is an heirloom? An heirloom is something passed down generation to generation. The term heirloom (loom meaning a tool) probably came about due to a person handing down his/her tools of the trade to the next generations. It doesn’t have to be of great monetary value, but more of a sentimental value and family tradition. I am still trying to track down some family heirlooms that were not passed down, but auctioned off when the last son living at the family farm died. My ancestor was a carpenter and he made their dining set of which the chairs had the family crest carved on their backs.  It is rumored some went to family, and some were bought by a Mr Hamilton of Toronto.  Also, by family legend, my Seale ancestor had on the wall of the family home a ragged piece of the Banner of William of Orange that was carried at the Battle of the Boyne by an ancestor in 1690. All the sons got a piece to remind them and their progeny of how they got where they were and what they stood for. I am searching.

Sometimes it is not practical to hold on to an heirloom, and if that is the case make sure it is documented and photographed. Such was my situation when I moved across the country with just 16 small boxes to my name. There was a wooden Silver Chest made by my great-uncle for his mother, my great-grandmother (middle in above photo).  He was a carpenter, very skilled at inlay work, and his job was making floor model radio cabinets. The top of the Chest lifts up to put the big items in. The chest front drops down to reveal 4 drawers, each inlaid beautifully. It sits on a stand made for it. Frankly I needed the money and I thought the piece should go to someone who would lovingly use it day to day. It was an emotional time for me and I forgot to put the provenance with it, as I intended. But I did photo and document it.

These are other heirlooms I treasure! When she decided it was her time to go, my grandmother instructed me to give her amethyst jewelry to my daughter who shared the same birth month as her, but that I should keep her engagement ring.  I love the story of it, as my grandmother lost the diamond out of the ring in her wringer washer! My grandparents were retired by this time and couldn’t afford another diamond, so my grandfather surprised her and had it set with an amethyst.  I will pass this on to my granddaughter, who is also an amethyst baby, and tell her stories of her great-great-grandparents.  Last year my mother surprised ME at Christmas, by taking my grandmother’s wedding band, and having it made into the shape of a heart and hung on a chain! Now I can wear it all the time and feel close to both my beloved grandparents.

What family heirlooms were passed down in your family?  Below you will find links to help you document your precious heirlooms, take care of them, and ideas to display them.

Relevant Links:

Lost and Found Heirlooms

Family Heirloom Exchange - USA ($ but search is free)

Heirloom and Oral History forms from Family Tree Magazine

Friday, 23 May 2014

Closet or Cloud, who gets your Stuff?

Today we will talk about a more modern ancestor - YOU !

One day you will be the Ancestor – are you prepared? When my bother learned he was dying he started putting all his affairs in order to make it easy for me, the Executor of his estate.  After making his arrangements, he took me around to meet his banker, his lawyer and the funeral director who would do the cremation and plant a tree in the local Provincial Park in his name. We went through all his papers, the photos and collections in his closet, what his few valuables were, and I had him make a list of things he wanted to go to certain of his friends.

In this technological age, you don’t only have to worry about the stuff in your closet, but also the stuff in your CLOUD!! Pass on your passwords!  I started with one simple password that I could remember, then sites started asking for more characters, then add Capitals, now they ask for a symbol – I have to have a file just to keep track of all my passwords!  Besides my photos, creative works, paper work etc, I also have all my Genealogy on my hard drive and online. I don’t want all my hard work to go to waste, so I have to plan now what is going to happen to it. If you have your family tree online, at least once a year, more often preferably, back it up by downloading the gedcom file to store in a safe place.

There are many types of wills, from free to virtual. Some provinces, states and countries recognize different kinds of wills so it’s a good idea to check your area. A Holographic Will is a will that is completely handwritten and does not need witnesses, or a lawyer or notary. A simple, or Statutory Will is one you can buy in a stationary store and fill in the blanks, and must be witnessed.  Now, with new and improved technology you can make a will online.
Imagine... you can make a virtual will for your virtual stuff!  Whodathunk???

Relevant Links:

How to Write a Holographic Will (and other types of wills)

Online Wills – UK

US Online Wills by State (check your state laws)

The Digital Beyond (organizing your digital assets)

What are your digital assets worth?

Cutting Probate Costs – Globe and Mail

Estate Law Canada

Wills Online by Yahoo Canada



Thursday, 22 May 2014

Heir to the Goods and Chattles

Not everyone wrote a will, and not every will has to be probated. That said, I have found probate records for a value of effects as little as ₤48 that a spinster left her brother and as much as ₤13,670 that a Master Tailor left his wife. In Canada, Australia and the US, probate records are under the jurisdiction of the province or state. Canada and US records for aboriginals are federal. In southern England and Wales wills 1384- 1858 were a church matter and registered, mostly, with the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.

Unfortunately many offices in Devon that held wills were blitzed in WWII.  Fortunately for me, my ancestor had enough of an estate that a “death duty” was owed and these records, called Inland Revenue Wills, had been kept in London and those from 1812 to 1857 survived, as well as some in Cornwall and Somerset.

My grandmother, being the eldest child, was the executor with her mother of her father’s will, and bless her heart she never threw anything out. What I have is a Declaration of Transmission of Estate for a non-probated will in Montreal, which named the properties he owned. A Will or a Probate Record can name children, property, and what burying arrangements should be made. Sometimes it is just a line saying all their effects go to someone.   


Relevant Links:

Court of Surrey Spage Register (Register of Wills named after first person registered)

Devonshire UK wills – from 1546- and genealogy of the most ancient gentle houses

Somerset UK – Wills

Wills and Testaments – Scotland

Wills and Testaments – National Archives of Ireland

A Treatise of Testaments and Last Wills Dublin 1793 (How to write a will)

New Zealand Probate Records at Family Search:

USA Will and Probate Records by State at Family Search

Popular Posts in the Last Year

By joining our Facebook group you get other genealogy news from time to time, and you can download pages of links that go with the posts. Use follow buttons at top right under search bar.

Copyright © Genealogy: Beyond the BMD
Division of Dianne at Home

Genealogy Blogs    GeneaBloggersTRIBE