Bedfordshire Family History Society

PO Box 214, Bedford MK41 8WB
Patron: Dr Colin R Chapman MA, CEng, CSci, CChem, FEI, FNucI, FRSC, FRSH, FSG
President: Pamela Birch
Registered Charity Number 281677



The Letter of The Law
David Annal
Friday 3 May 2024

The records that we use to research our family history are largely the result of a variety of Acts of Parliament. A good understanding of the legislation behind the census returns, parish registers and civil registration records (and many more) can make an enormous difference when it comes to interpreting the information left behind by our ancestors. This talk looks at the major pieces of legislation from Thomas Cromwell’s ‘order’ which established the parish register system in 1538, through the various Census Acts and the ground-breaking 1836 Act for the registering of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in England to investigate how the legislation can impact on your research. .

British Newspapers
Denise Bates
Friday 5 July 2024

I was born in Sheffield. I studied Modern History at St Anne’s College, Oxford, where I specialised in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A few years as a Chartered Accountant followed, until I swapped paid employment for bringing up a family, and a range of community roles. During this time I wrote features on subjects including child welfare, school governance and IT for children and reviewed books and software. When I returned to work it was to the charitable sector.

Discovering our family trees rekindled my passion for history. When an opportunity arose to research and write about the hidden world of the women who used to work underground in coal mines I decided to take it. Pit Lasses challenged a century of misconceptions about these hardy women and their lives.

Breach of Promise to Marry explores what sort of women were the real Miss Havishams and what suing for damages after a broken engagement reveals about the social values of the time. It was inspired by reading about two very different breach of promise cases in a Victorian newspaper.

Historical Research Using British Newspapers stemmed from my practical experience of researching Pit Lasses and Breach of Promise to Marry and the very positive reaction to some blogs about newspapers as historical sources which I wrote for The British Newspaper Archive.

I now research and write books and articles and give talks. My key areas of interest are British social history, newspapers and fiction and the media as historical sources.

Discovering Robert Keable, Utterly Immoral WWI Chaplain and Writer
Simon Keable-Elliott 
Friday 8 November 2024

Simon is an acredited lecturer with the Arts Society and listed in the Arts Society directory of lecturerers.

In his talk Simon Keable-Elliott discusses the life and work of the 1920's novelist Robert Keable. Keable was a well respected writer and priest before and during the First World War who wrote the bestselling scandalous novel - Simon Called Peter. The novel is featured in The Great Gatsby and was turned into a Broadway play and the sequel into a Hollywood movie. The success of the novel allowed Keable to run away to live in Tahiti writing six more novels and eventually marrying a Tahitian princess.

Gypsy Bride
Martin Rose
Friday 6 December 2024

I am delighted to speak about Sarah Anne Shaw, a gypsy from Stotfold. Hers is an extraordinary story, well worth the telling. I have recently published a small book about her marriage and its consequences called ‘Nehemiah Perry & His Gypsy Bride’ which I launched recently at Saffron Waldon Historical Society. The story is interesting in itself, but also in demonstrating the use of sources. I was extraordinarily lucky in that there are several archival sources (including the complete divorce file with all its evidence verbatim), none of which had previously been used. Every time I thought ‘There can’t be any more to find’, there was, so that makes for quite an interesting journey of discovery. Gypsy genealogy is itself interesting because I had no idea how much I could discover, but it turned out to be quite a lot. Sarah came from one of the most distinguished ‘black-blooded’ Gypsy families of Eastern England, fiddlers to a man and woman, who played at every village feast in the region, and I think I have managed to construct a pretty good family tree.





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Brian Payne