The e-newsletter of the Sussex Family History Group

History Centre under threat

There is a proposal by Brighton & Hove City Council to close the Brighton History Centre from the beginning of April, with the loss of all jobs. This closure, intended to save the council £62,000, would be a devastating blow to those researching family and local history in the Brighton area.

A devastating blow to those researching family and local history in the area.

It is intended that the main services of the History Centre will be temporarily re-provided at Brighton’s Jubilee Library and then, in approximately two years’ time, moved to ‘The Keep’ (the proposed new ESRO building). Obviously this would involve two moves rather than one, and all the additional costs this would create.

And the loss of the expertise of the staff employed at the Brighton History Centre would be a great disadvantage. The best way to help is by writing letters to councillors, contacting newspapers and the media to publicise what is being proposed.

There is an ePetition in support of the Brighton History Centre, urging the council “…to recognise the importance of the History Centre to the city’s cultural life…”. Please sign the petition: (click on ‘Logon and Sign ePetition’ – it’s just necessary to give your name and e-mail address, and to nominate a password). The closing date is 1 February.

Worship: weird and wonderful

This is the topic for the Uckfield Meeting Centre’s meeting on Monday 11 January. This talk by Alec Tritton looks at religious sects from the 17th to 20th centuries.

They meet at the Luxford Day Centre, Library Way, High Street, Uckfield, TN22 1AR on the second Monday of each month, 7pm for 7.30pm.

See the SFHG website for programmes for the whole year for all the meeting centres.

Conference and AGM

The Sussex Family History Group’s Annual Conference will be held at Clair Hall in Haywards Heath on Saturday 20 March. Members, and non-members, are invited to attend what has traditionally been an excellent occasion. The SFHG’s AGM is held following the conference.

The lecture topics are ‘Mills & millers of Sussex’, ‘Pre-1841 censuses & population listings’ and ‘Inns, alehouses & taverns of Sussex’. The SFHG bookstall will be there, along with a number of other exhibitors – including our local record offices.

Details and booking form were included with December’s Sussex Family Historian and are repeated on the website.

GRO indexing project revived

The General Register Office (GRO) has announced that the digitisation of the GRO birth, marriage and death records is moving forward and a new project, called the Digitisation and Indexing (D&I) Project, has been initiated.

The new project will cover the digitisation of the records themselves together with indexing and upgrading the online certificate ordering process. No information is given about what information is likely to be included in the new indexes nor does it look as if the digital images of certificates themselves are likely to be made available online under the current legislation.

However the announcement does say the future online index will be free to use, thus complying with the statutory obligation to provide free access to the birth, marriage and death indexes.

No timetable is given for the project and the free fiche indexes will remain in various libraries until the index is online.

This project effectively restarts the GRO’s ill-fated Dove, Eagle and Magpie projects.

See the Q&As on the Identity and Passport Agency website: for more information.

Paine document rescued

A separation agreement, effectively ending Thomas Paine’s brief marriage to his landlord’s daughter Elizabeth Ollive and signed on 4 June 1774, has been bought at auction by East Sussex Record Office.

Thomas Paine is known as ‘the Father of the American Revolution’ and his writings in both America and France were key to their revolutions and to advancing the ideals of liberty. He worked in Lewes as an exciseman from 1768 until 1774 – the year in which his business failed, he lost his job and his marriage broke up.

When it became known that the 235-year-old separation document was to be sold at auction in London, Christopher Whittick, Senior Archivist at ESRO, was determined that it should come home to Lewes and started the fundraising necessary to secure it. With guarantees from the Government Purchase Grant Fund, the Friends of the National Libraries, Lewes Town Council, the Friends of East Sussex Record Office and three private individuals, the Record Office was successful in buying the document for £13,420.

The document will be available to view at the Record Office and the County Council also plans to display it at a public event in Lewes in June.

Discover family history

There are three more courses at Eastbourne Library. Each course consists of six Saturday morning sessions of two hours. The courses cost £40, including cost of materials. The tutor is Bob Spilsted of Family Roots (Eastbourne & District) FHS.

The sessions cover basic principles, and give an insight into good practices and the resources available – Introduction, oddities and good practice; Records; Beginning to look at primary sources; Secondary sources; Use of the internet as a research tool; Resources available locally. The upcoming courses commence on 9 January, 20 February and 3 April.

Details and application form are on the East Sussex County Council website. Or phone 0345 60 80 196 and ask for the ‘Discover Family History’ course at Eastbourne Library.