I’ve just been listening to The National Archives Podcast by Audrey Collins ‘The London Gazette - not just the brave and the bankrupt’.
This really struck a chord with me as, after getting more seriously into Genealogy, I read several articles about The London Gazette and its sister publications The Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes. “Very interesting,” I thought, “must take a closer look, but not the sort of place to find my humble ancestors.”
Then, late one evening, I put my grandfather’s name into Google on a whim and was surprised to get a hit. I was even more surprised when I realised that I had found him in the London Gazette - twice! So, to underline the message of the podcast, I thought I would share a couple of examples from one branch of my family tree of ordinary individuals found in the London Gazette:
THE LONDON GAZETTE, 6 DECEMBER, 1927.
Civil Service Commission - November 9, 1927.
AFTER OPEN COMPETITION.
Male Sorting Clerk and Telegraphist,
Huddersfield, Douglas Sykes Wilkinson.
(This is my grandfather, Douglas, aged 16, being appointed to his first job.)
THE LONDON GAZETTE, NOVEMBER 20, 1903.
HUDDERSFIELD ELECTRIC LIGHTING
(EXTENSION TO GOLCAR).
Printed copies of the draft Provisional Order will be deposited at the said offices of the Board of Trade on or before the 21st day of December next, and printed copies of the draft Provisional Order, when deposited, and of the Provisional Order, when made, may be obtained at the offices of the undersigned, and at the office of the Clerk to the Urban District Council of Golcar aforesaid, and at the residence of Simeon Sykes, Surveyor to the Urban District Council of Golcar, in Swallow-street, Golcar, on payment of one shilling for each copy.
(When it was proposed that electric lighting should come to the Yorkshire village of Golcar, copies of the Provisional Order could be obtained at the home of Douglas’ uncle, Simeon Sykes - actually he lived in Swallow Lane not Swallow Street.)
SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 29 AUGUST, 1918.
His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Military Medal for bravery in the Field to the under-mentioned. Non-commissioned Officers and Men:-
68393 Bomdr. S. Sykes, R.G.A. (Hudders-field).
(Simeon’s brother, Samuel Sykes, received an award for bravery whilst serving in the First World War.)
Some of the problems associated with the OCR technology which enable the gazettes to be searched (and how to get round this) are discussed in the podcast. Looking at the Gazettes Online website today I was pleased to discover that the original printed indexes to the London Gazette are now available online from the early 19th Century onwards and can be downloaded as PDFs (you need to select a particular year and each year is covered by several volumes of indexes) so that, with a bit of patience, it should now be possible to find ancestors in the Gazettes who have previously proved elusive. So far, there only appear to be indexes to the Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes for 2002 onwards.
I’ve recently been doing a little research into one of the ancestors of my partner and, inspired by the podcast, I decided to search for him in the London Gazette to see if I could identify his civil service appointment. No luck so far, but I did find him among the names of Insolvent Debtors, along with a list of seven previous addresses at which he was known. So, not just the brave and the bankrupt, but you may find someone among the bankrupt who you weren’t expecting!
I suppose the lesson here is, if something is available online, is free and is searchable by name, then it’s worth searching for the names of your ancestors, even if you think the chances of finding them are pretty slim.