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Thursday, 24 March 2016

Charlotte Bronte Anniversary

This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë on 21 April 1816, and you can read my feature on the birth of the Brontë family legend in Issue 5 of the Discover Your Ancestors bookazine. Lots of events are planned for the forthcoming bicentenaries of the births of Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne Brontë, and you will be able to find out more on the Brontë200 website (currently under construction).  
The same issue of the magazine has another feature by me on secondary education and teacher training. University and college records can be a good way of researching your ancestors' schooldays, as well as finding information on other family members.  


Charlotte Brontë. Engraving for Clement Shorter, The Brontës And Their Circle, J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, c.1914. Author’s collection.

Hotel de Ville, Brussels. Patrick Brontë visited Brussels with Charlotte and Emily in February 1842. The girls studied abroad so they would be better qualified as teachers and governesses. Cassell’s Encyclopaedia, a Storehouse of General Information, Vol. 2, c.1894.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Tracing Your Regency-Era Ancestors

My latest feature for the new-look Your Family History magazine (April issue) explores the wealth of Georgian records available to help you smash the pre-civil registration barrier: parish registers, poor law records, apprenticeships, Home Office papers, criminal records, militia lists, newspapers and magazines, etc. 

There's also a great review of Regency Spies, and you can also 'Meet the Author' and read an interview with yours truly!

‘A Street Row’. Footpads and robbers were rife in Regency England. The night-watchman waves his rattle to call for help. Illustration by George and Robert Cruikshank, Life in London, John Camden Hotten, Piccadilly, 1869. Author’s collection.

Monday, 14 March 2016

The Cato St Conspiracy

Today I'm a guest on Deb Barnum's fabulous Jane Austen In Vermont blog! My guest post is on the Cato St conspirators of 1820 and the spies watching them.
Image: The stable and loft where the conspirators gathered ready to murder members of the British Cabinet; a policeman was killed during the plotters' arrest.  George Theodore Wilkinson, The Newgate Calendar Improved Vol. 5, (Thomas Kelly, 1836). Courtesy the Internet Archive,

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

A Regency Dinner Party

Lady's Monthly Museum.
My latest post on my Jane Austen blog is on planning a special dinner party!

Ireland And Independence Part II: The United Irishmen

Ireland, 1813.

Ireland’s problems were exacerbated by social and religious tensions which regularly erupted into dreadful violence. For example, during the 1790s the Protestant and Presbyterian ‘Peep-O’-Day Boys’ attacked and burned the houses of Catholics in Armagh. To protect themselves, the Catholics formed armed associations known as the ‘Defenders’. After a terrific battle between the two factions at Diamond in Armagh in 1795, some Protestants formed the first Orange Lodge with the avowed intention of killing all Roman Catholics. 

But some Irishmen like Theobald Wolfe Tone, Samuel Neilson and others wanted to promote religious toleration, give the vote to disadvantaged Catholics, and push for an independent Ireland. Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763–1798) recalled that the thunderbolt of the French Revolution ‘changed in an instant the politics of Ireland…This oppressed, plundered, and insulted nation...sympathised most sincerely with the French people, and watched their progress to freedom’.
The Society of United Irishmen of Belfast was founded by Wolfe Tone and others in 1791. The Society promoted the works of Thomas Paine. The Belfast group was joined a few weeks later by another Society in Dublin, which had James Napper Tandy, a former Volunteer, as Secretary.

James Napper Tandy.

At this date the United Irishmen wanted peaceful, constitutional reform: universal manhood suffrage.  The Society’s mostly middle-class members included Catholics and Protestants; they tried to damp down the ongoing sectarian violence.
However, Ireland’s Roman Catholics were bitterly disappointed in 1793 when Pitt the Younger, under pressure from George III, shelved Catholic emancipation. Many Irishmen believed that civil war was now inevitable between the Protestant landowners and Catholic peasantry.
The Dublin government gave local magistrates sweeping powers to search for arms and disperse meetings. Militia regiments were embodied, public meetings were made illegal, societies like the United Irishmen were banned, and spies set to work.

Wolfe Tone and James Napper Tandy, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Map of Ireland. Barclay’s Dictionary, 1813. Author’s collection.