The joy of Almanacks
I always had the impression that almanacs were something to do with cricket, weather and astrology. I never imagined that they would be useful for genealogy until I picked up a couple at a local antiques fair. They were Morton’s Lincolnshire Almanack for 1939 and 1940. It is a terrible cliché but they really are a treasure trove of information for the family historian and for a Lincolnshire genealogist like myself these are going to be great!
The almanack starts with a calendar of dates, sun rise and setting times and a space for notes to be kept. Each month has a set of predictions. Sadly there was no prediction of the outbreak of war in September 1939 instead it talks about the moon in conjunction with Venus and Mercury “These positions are most helpful for the preservation of peace both in industrial and international disagreements. Important work to that end will now be achieved both at home and abroad – work which may include the final settlement of at least one War abroad – perhaps to usher in a new, better, happier and more prosperous era for all mankind.” The 1939 calendar has not been used to record any events personal to the owner of the almanack. The 1940 copy has a poignant note recorded against 25 June “My wife Eliza died 25th at 1235pm – C Fletcher.”
A paragraph describes the population of the county and how the county is divided into administrative areas and petty session areas. A list of market towns follows including details of their population, area, market day and early closing day. For example: Market Rasen is a market town on the Hull and Lincoln branch of the LNER. Area 972 acres. Population 2,042. Market Day Tuesday. Cattle and stock market on Wednesdays. Early closing day Thursday.
Details of county councillors follows as well as petty session officers and National Farmers union.
There are all kinds of random details in the almanack including details of postal charges. In 1939, it cost 1 1/2d to post a letter weighing 2oz or less. There are dates of all the fairs scheduled in the year. Various groups are listed such as the Horncastle and District Hockey Club, British Legion Club etc with details of the membership.
The almanack is focussed on the area around Horncastle which is where the publisher WK Morton was based. There is a history of the town which includes the lines “The streets are lighted by gas supplied by a gas undertaking maintained by the Urban Council. An electricity supply is available to those who care to use it.” I love that – for those who care to use it.
There is an alphabetical list of householders in Horncastle and another one of Woodhall Spa as well as a directory of the villages around Horncastle such as this one for Langton-by-Wragby.
There is a list of burials in Horncastle Cemetery from December to November the previous years with names and ages given.
Then scattered throughout the almanack are photographs of weddings, couples celebrating their golden and diamond weddings, notable residents who have died during the previous years and sports teams.
Sports team photos include the winning team of the 1939 Horncastle Darts League. Black Swan ‘A’ Team won with the Black Swan ‘B’ Team coming second. Might have been a bit awkward - with the possibility of a bit of marital discord: Mr T A Warrender was in the A Team and Mrs T A Warrender was in the B Team!
Even sometimes a photograph of times gone by such as this of Holy Trinity Choir in the 1870s.
In the back of the 1939 almanack are “The Year’s Happenings” noting down significant events that occurred in 1938. From this we learn that New Year's day was a foggy one and that the Aurora Borealis were visible in Horncastle on 25 January 1938.
Having enjoyed going through these 20th century copies a quick google revealed that several 19th century editions are available to read and download from Google Books. These are obviously slightly lighter on photographs but full of all sorts of other information relating to shipwrecks, murders, extraordinary weather conditions and obituaries.
If you have any relatives who married in the Horncastle area (or reached a significant anniversary) in 1938 or 1939 then get in touch and I will see if there is a photograph in the almanack.
So keep an eye out for almanacks. I am off to ebay to see if I can find any more copies...