Saturday, 31 December 2011

History of New Years Eve in the U.K.

New Year's Eve has long been a time for celebrations and known for feasts and one too many alcholic beverages. In 1740, Rt. Rev. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church started "Watchnight" services on New Years Eve, also known as Covenant Renewal Services. The services were intended as a godly alternative to 'drunken revelry' and are still popular within the Methodist Church and in many African-American Church communities.
In the U.K., 152 year old Big Ben in the Clock Tower in London is the main focus on New Years Eve. On 31 December 1923, the midnight chime of Big Ben was broadcast live for the first time when BBC engineer AG Dryland climbed up on to a roof top opposite the Houses of Parliament with his recording equipment!
Big Ben, New Years Eve celebrations
The tradition of listening to Big Ben's chime on New Years Eve has remained, and is now recorded by a BBC microphone within the Clock Tower. My own Grandmother tells of how the family gathered around the wireless to listen to the chimes followed by Auld Lang Syne and to toast the New Year with a glass of sherry. Robert Burns' Auld Lang Syne, or in English "Old Long Since", had been poular in Scotland at New Year since the 18th century and quickly spread to other parts of the U.K.

Here is a link to a short video on the BBC archive website from 1936, talking about the first recording of Big Ben's chimes:
How the Big Ben chimes were first recorded for broadcast by the BBC

How will you be spending New Years Eve 2011??

Wishing you all the very best!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Today at Family History Helpers

All of our Christmas Gift Packages that were to be hand delivered have now gone out, it has certainly been a fun few days delivering them! It's always nice to hear the excited exclaims of people discovering what their ancestors did, what their children were called, where they came from, etc. The last of the Christmas Gift Packages that are to be posted will be sent via Special Delivery tomorrow morning.

This evening I'm continuing work on an Advanced Pack for which we have traced the customer's family name back to 1692 so far and are still going strong! Throughout the 1700s and in the early 1800s the family were weaver's from Ashton-under-lyne, Lancashire (apart from one many-times-Great Grandfather who tried his hand at being a book keeper, and a beer retailer, but in the end was also a weaver!).
A weavers cottage in 1772
In the 1830s the family moved to Manchester and most of the men, and many of the women were cotton spinners, but by the mid 1840s the family were back to working as weavers again, but this time with the assistance of power looms!
Power loom weaving in 1835
This remained the occupation for most of the family until, in 1865, the customers Great-Grandfather broke the mold and became an iron turner (although he briefly fell back on his family's connections in cotton weaving for just under a year in 1871), his sons were also iron turners. The customer's father moved to Cheshire and set up his own business as a grocer in the 1930s. I wonder how much further back from 1692 we'll be able to take this line? Very exciting!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Tiny book by 14 year old Charlotte Brontë sold for £690,850

"The Young Men's Magazine, Number 2" an unpublished manuscript by Charlotte Brontë has sold for a record value of £690,850 at a Sotheby's auction in London.
The manuscript was written in August 1830 when Charlotte was just 14 years old, 17 years before she wrote the world famous novel, Jane Eyre.
Charlotte Brontë
Sotheby's senior specialist in books and manuscripts, Gabriel Heaton, said that the manuscript, which is set in Glass Town, the earliest fictional world created by the Bronte siblings, contains a colourful tale of murder and madness which includes a precursor to one of the most famous scenes in Jane Eyre - the moment Bertha, Mr Rochester's insane wife, seeks revenge by setting fire to the bed curtains in her husband's chamber. He added that the manuscript marked Charlotte Brontë's first burst of creativity and provided a rare and intimate insight into one of history's great literary minds.
The tiny book, pictured below, contained over 4,000 words over 19 pages.

The Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth, West Yorkshire (based in what used to be Charlotte's house), stopped bidding at £560,000. The winning bidder was French museum La Musie des Lettres et Manuscrits. The book will be exhibited from January.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

New revealing letter on 150th anniversary of Prince Albert's death

A letter written by Queen Victoria, previously unknown of to the general public, has today been revealed by London auctioneers, Argyll Etkin. Today is quite a fitting day for the content of the letter to be announced as it is the 150th anniversary of the death Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert; and the letter expresses the Queen's deep ongoing grief 15 months after his passing.
Prince Albert died on 14 December 1861, he had not been well since the autumn of 1860 when he jumped from a fast moving horse drawn carriage which was about to crash, although his official cause of death was recorded as typhoid fever. He was aged just 42. The Prince had had special interest in applying science and art to the manufacturing industry and he had played a major role in the organisation of The Great Exhibition of 1851, he also led reforms in university education, welfare, and slavery.
The Queen was truly devastated by the death of her husband and she mourned him deeply for the rest of her life.
Below is an excerpt from the newly revealed letter that the Queen wrote to 82 year old military commander Viscount Gough on the death of his wife in March, 1863:
‘The Queen has heard with much concern of the sad affliction that has befallen Lord Gough and is anxious to express personally her sincere sympathy to him.
 Irreparable as his loss is how blessed to have lived together until the evening of their lives with the comfort and hope of the separation being a short one.
 To the poor Queen this blessing so needful to her has been denied and she can only hope never to live to old age but be allowed to rejoin her beloved great and loyal husband before many years elapse.’
Queen Victoria, in mourning, 1862

Today at Family History Helpers

Today at Family History Helpers the majority of the day has been spent drawing trees and printing family history documents for Christmas gift packages, two of which I'm very much looking forward to hand delivering and presenting to very excited customers tomorrow!
One gentleman has bought his wife four of our Core Packs for her Christmas present, one for each of her Grandparents' lines. Amazingly three of the four lines go all the way back to the late 1700s all as farm owners in the county in which she was born and still lives! Some of the farms still exist and we are going to try and arrange for her to visit. Very exciting!

Our Core Packs (pictured above) are printed on archive quality paper and trace your family back to the early 1800s / late 1700s and include copies of all of the original census reports your family appear on revealing addresses, occupations, and more for just £80-00. For more details visit

Legendary "Glastonbury Grace Cup" on display

A legendary oak tankard the 'Glastonbury Grace Cup' has been placed on display at an exhibition at Glastonbury Abbey after having been loaned to them by a descendant of the Arundell family. 
The Grace Cup dates from the early 1500s, and is believed to have originally belonged to the abbots of Glastonbury. The last Abbot, Richard Whiting, was hanged, drawn and quartered as a traitor and the abbey dissolved during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 under King Henry VIII. The Glastonbury Grace Cup was said to have been smuggled out of the abbey, which is when it was given to the Arundell family of Wardour Castle in Wiltshire. The family must have looked after it extremely well, even managing to save it when their castle was besieged and forced to surrender during the English Civil War, it remains in the family to this day!

A Grace Cup was passed around the table after 'grace' (a thanksgiving prayer) was said.
The Glastonbury Grace Cup (pictured above) is decorated with the 12 Apostles and the Crucifixion surrounded by birds, wild beasts and flowers. The cup is has internal vertical rows of pegs, allocating drinkers an equal measure of ale!

The exhibition at Glastonbury Abbey starts today and will continue until 31 January 2012.

Apple founding documents sell for $1.59 million

Some technology related recent history this morning - the founding papers that established Apple Computer Co. sold for $1.59 million dollars! The three page contract signed by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne on 01 April 1976, was sold at a Sotheby's auction in New York. Ronald Wayne withdrew as a partner 11 days after signing the contract and apparently received $800 for relinquishing his 10% ownership of Apple. The winning bidder was Eduardo Cisneros, chief executive officer of Cisneros Corp., whose family are the second most wealthy in South America according to Forbes.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


Hello! Welcome to my blog, I'm Danika (HistoriDan), a full time family historian. I have always thoroughly enjoyed researching my own family's history and the adventures it has taken me on, and have always loved researching family history for others. People whose family history I had researched told their friends, and I began getting many requests for help with ongoing research or to uncover people's family history on their behalf. Most people I was receiving requests from were either just too busy to invest all of the time needed to research their family history or weren't sure how to go about it. The requests I was receiving became so many that I couldn't manage them along with other work and study commitments. I considered referring people to a family history research service and when looking for one online was astounded by the high prices and lack of clarity with what you get for your money. I believe that everyone has the right to learn more about their family's history, not just the rich! This led to me to set up Family History Helpers and become a family historian full time. I wanted to offer more affordable family history research packages that make clear exactly what you will get for your money. The feedback I have received so far has been fantastic! I generally find that the majority people would love to know more about the history of their family, after all, the chain of events in each of our families' histories ultimately led to how we each came into existence!
I now spend my working days helping people discover their family history, helping people to trace long lost family and friends, and tracing the beneficiaries of unclaimed estates.
I love my work!