This newsletter and previous issues are available on the website: 


The e-newsletter of the Sussex Family History Group

Living the poor life

Thousands of pages of Victorian workhouse and poor law records have been made available online following the conclusion of a major project by The National Archives. As part of the 18-month project, volunteer editors were given access to the digitised correspondence of 21 Poor Law Unions (including Rye in Sussex).

Tales of family breakdown, corruption and blackmail - the previously untold stories of the poor

The result is an invaluable resource for researchers and historians containing numerous tales of family breakdown, corruption and blackmail and the previously untold stories of the poor, left behind by Britain's Industrial Revolution.

Visitors to The National Archives website can now freely access more than 115,000 scanned images of original records from 108 volumes of Poor Law Union records. Once notoriously difficult to research due to their size and limited indexing, these records now have detailed catalogue entries and a keyword search facility. (

The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 established a deterrent workhouse system whereby able-bodied paupers were offered a place in the workhouse as a last resort. Conditions were intentionally harsh, families were divided and paupers given uniforms and made to work. The records cover a tumultuous time in British history and provide a rich new source of material on opposition to the workhouse system, industrial strikes, Chartism, wages, the treatment of children and more - essential to any study of Victorian life.

The Keep is coming!

Following our last update we have been making progress with the detailed designs for the new building and preparing for the submission of our planning application this month. We have made a number of improvements to the scheme as a result of the public consultations and our ongoing pre-application discussions with the local planning authority.

Once the planning application has been submitted we will be able to start work on the next design stage when we will be concentrating on the detailed specifications including the internal furniture, fixtures and fittings, equipment for the conservation room and other areas of the building, and developing our marketing and branding for The Keep.

Information on The Keep, the new historical resource centre for East Sussex and Brighton & Hove, is still available to view on the website ( and will be updated as the project progresses.

It is very exciting to have reached this stage in the project and to be able to start to work more closely with the Sussex Family History Group to plan for our future together in the new building. • Wendy Walker, Senior Archivist and Programme Manager, ESRO.

'HER' goes online

Readers may be interested to know that the County Archaeologist for East Sussex, Casper Johnson, has just completed the successful launch of the Historic Environment Record (HER) online.

The HER is the most complete database of archaeological sites and features within East Sussex and Brighton & Hove and holds approximately 6,000 records about historic buildings, archaeological sites and places where archaeological finds have been found, from prehistoric times to the present day. This has now been made publicly available via English Heritage's 'Heritage Gateway' website, and further records are being added on a regular basis. People can directly access this information and it will provide learning opportunities for schools, local community projects and groups including local and family historians.

Local history exhibition

The third Wartling Parish Local History Exhibition takes place at The Reid Hall, Boreham Street on Saturday 9 October from 2pm to 8pm. Admission £2 (under 16s free) including entry into the prize draw.

Featured will be old photographs, documents, local findings, RAF Wartling and RAF Pevensey, local history and archaeological groups, genealogy, postcards, and books. Area covered includes Wartling, Boreham Street, Windmill Hill, Bodle Street Green, Stunts Green, Cowbeech, Cowbeech Hill, and Trolliloes. Also Herstmonceux, Gardner Street, Ninfield, and Hooe.

Census asks family historians to share their stories

The 2011 UK Census takes place on 27 March when everyone will be asked to complete and return a census questionnaire. Or, for the first time ever, it will be possible to complete the questionnaire online.

The 2011 Census website has a family history page ( where genealogists can share their helpful tips for searching census records and discuss their findings.

Family historians are also invited to submit their interesting census-related stories which may then be featured in local newspapers, on radio or websites.

Brotherhoods of common ideals

For approaching three centuries Friendly Societies have provided assistance to millions of British citizens by way of financial help in time of sickness and death. Many of the benefits which the welfare state provides were brought about by the experience of the Friendly Society movement.

Brighton Museum & Art Gallery has a display of Friendly Society memorabilia, particularly of the 'Orders'. Those featured are the Independent Order of Oddfellows (IOF), the Order of the Sons of Temperance (OST), and the Ancient Order of Foresters (AOF).

It's more than likely that some of your ancestors were members of a Friendly Society.

'Born Abroad' seminar

The Guild of One-Name Studies are organizing this seminar on Saturday 20 November at Sevenoaks Community Centre, Cramptons Road, off Otford Road, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN14 5DN. The cost of the seminar is £20 per person including drinks and buffet lunch.

The programme will give guidance in finding family records of persons who were born in India or families that have Huguenot, Jewish or Black ancestry. Book online at