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How our ancestors decorated their homes for Christmas

Decking the halls

Ruth A Symes explored how our ancestors decorated for Christmas, from mistletoe to paper chains in an archived article from Discover Your Ancestors

Greenery and fruit, sparkle and snow, colourfully dressed tables and walls inscribed with Yuletide mottos – Christmases past were decorated using much the same general combination of ideas as Christmases today. But the specifics of the way our ancestors decorated their homes at any given time in the past depended not only on tradition, but also on what was currently most novel and up-to-date.

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, domestic and church decorations at Christmas tended to be simple and worked on the principle of bringing something of the outside world indoors. Our ancestors would decorate their lamps, candles and tables, very shortly before Christmas Day, with material such as holly, ivy, mistletoe and berries collected from hedges and winter gardens. The candles (attached to the greenery with wax or pins) would be lit only on Christmas Eve to minimise the danger of fire hazard. The Rev James Woodforde, who kept a diary from the mid-18th century onwards, recorded that he filled his house with holly and lit a great wax candle especially for Christmas. Fruit and vegetables, imported from overseas, or newly-grown in British hothouses, were considered decorations in and of themselves. The Market Post of December 25th 1848 noted that in Covent Garden that Xmas season, the supply of pineapples, apples, pears, hothouse grapes, foreign grapes, walnuts, lemons and oranges was "seasonally good and sold readily".

A typical home at Christmas in the mid-Victorian period, would have been decorated to draw the eye towards the fireplace, which would have been ablaze with colour and sparkle. The popular installation of a Christmas tree in the domestic environment was widely attributed to a widely publicised etching of the Royal family at Christmas, complete with a tree (decorated with tinsel made from real shavings of silver) in the London Illustrated News of 1848. Mottoes or biblical quotations, with the individual letters cut out from paper and decorated with coloured rice or cotton wadding to imitate snow were often strung across the walls.

Trees were decorated with ornaments made from lace, paper, scraps of newspaper and magazine illustrations. Spurred on by the royal endorsement of Christmas, our Victorian ancestors proceeded to go decoration-crazy as the century progressed. As the Supplement to the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent of Saturday 24 December 24 1881 commented, "[Christmas decorations] are no longer hung around a room haphazard – as pineapples, apples, holly bough here, a bunch of berries there, a trail of ivy elsewhere. They are carefully planned and artistically constructed."

--- Reproduced with kind permission of Discover Your Ancestors Online Periodical ---

Read the entire article for free on the Discover Your Ancestors site 

Or take a look at the latest issue, books and subscriptions: https://discoveryourancestors.co.uk/


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New Version Released: Family Historian 7

Family Historian Version 7

Just in time for the Christmas presents market there has come a welcome announcement about some family history software. The highly anticipated new version of the deluxe genealogy application written by a leading UK software designer for the UK market is now out!

Family Historian version 7 is said to be a new concept in genealogy programs that allows you to enter your family by drawing a tree. Full support is given for sources, notes, facts and linked multimedia elements. For researchers it provides support for Queries and Reports. 

This powerful, award-winning genealogy program has a range of new and improved features designed to meet the needs of the beginner and expert alike.


We have found it offered online in a tantalising package from S&N Genealogy Supplies who have put together everything that you need to Research, Record and Report your Family History!


Their offer is just £69.95 (Saving you 46%) and this includes:

- The newly released Family Historian V7

- Quick Start Guide

- 3 Months Gold Subscription to TheGenealogist, giving you access to Census, BMDs, Parish Records and more

- A Regional Research Guidebook

To take advantage of this special offer now: Buy Family Historian 7 from S&N Genealogy Supplies today!



What's New in this version of the software?

Version 7 brings a wealth of new features and improvements, including:


Integrated Word Processing - including font and text styles, tables, embedded source citations, record links, website links, and hash tags.

New Note Window - a new floating window designed for viewing and editing notes and supporting all the new word processing features

New and Improved Diagrams - a new Everyone diagram; new All Relatives + Indirect Relatives diagram showing everyone that a person or couple are related to; new Pedigree diagram; new Waterfall diagram; and four new DNA diagrams

New Reports - Calendar, File statistics, Individual Scrapbook, Individual Timeline, Note Records, Place Report, Research Notes, Sources and Citations, Tagged Notes

Improved Report Window

Improved Website and Family Tree CD/DVD Generation

Historical Maps

Fact Flags - facts can now be marked as Private, Preferred, Tentative and/or Rejected

Research Notes

Source Templates

Source-driven Data Entry

Source Transcription Tools

New Citation Window

and much more!


Find out more here: https://genealogysupplies.com/product/Windows-Genealogy-Software/Family-Historian-V7




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University, College and School Registers released online by TheGenealogist

TheGenealogist releases more College and University registers into its expanding Educational Records adding a quarter of a million additional individuals. This release includes records from England, Scotland, Ireland, The Netherlands, New Zealand and even a college from Portugal.


The records can be used to discover a student’s achievements and are fantastic for identifying where next to apply your research for an ancestor. Educational records will confirm birth dates and sometimes the place of birth. Usually they give a father’s name and address, which is useful when the parent is missing from the census, and they can give details of the student’s occupation and a great deal more useful information.


Fettes College, Edinburgh


Researchers can use this new data to find ancestors who attended or taught at a variety of Educational establishments in a wide range of years up to the mid 1930s. The earliest record in this release is dated 1566 in the Christ's Hospital Exhibitioners to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, 1566-1923. In contrast the latest record is 1936, taken from the List of Occupants of Rooms in St John's College 1895-1936.


These records can also be used to identify those who held high office in the institutions, so that University patrons, deans, visitors, professors and masters and the principals and governors of schools are usually included.


Also in this release we have some fascinating Irish Examination Board records from 1889, 1891 and 1892. These reveal the candidates’ names, addresses and grades in all their subjects, including some rather unusual ones. If you can find an ancestor, within these records, it will certainly be an eyeopener as they disclose what subjects your forebear had been a good or a bad student of.


The registers released on TheGenealogist today are: 



  • Aberdeen Education Authority Members' Directory, 1920-1921
  • Aberdeen University Roll of Graduates, 1860-1900


  • Christ's Hospital Exhibitioners to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, 1566-1923
  • List of Occupants of Rooms in St John's College, 1895-1936
  • Gonville and Caius College Vol. II, 1713-1897
  • Register of Admissions to King’s College, 1850-1900
  • Admissions to Peterhouse or S. Peter's College in the University of Cambridge, 1615-1911
  • Girton College Register, 1869-1946


  • Kelly College Register, 1877-1927


  • Alumni Dublineneses, 1593-1846


  • University of Edinburgh Graduates, 1859-88
  • The Fettes College Register, 1870-1932


  • Intermediate Education Board for Ireland, Exhibition and Prize Lists, 1889
  • Intermediate Education Board for Ireland, Exhibition and Prize Lists, 1890
  • Intermediate Education Board for Ireland, Examinations Held in 1889 Pass Lists, Boys
  • Intermediate Education Board for Ireland, Examinations Held in 1892 Pass Lists, Boys
  • Intermediate Education Board for Ireland, Examinations Held in 1891 Pass Lists, Boys


  • Dulwich College War Record, 1939-1945


  • University of Leyden, List of English speaking Students of Medicine, 1932

New Zealand

  • The Early History of Wellington College, N.Z, 1867-1883
  • New Zealand University Calendar, 1925


  • Alumni Oxonienses (Members of the University of Oxford) 1715-1886 Vol I
  • Alumni Oxonienses 1715-1886 Vol II
  • Alumni Oxonienses 1715-1886 Vol III
  • Alumni Oxonienses 1715-1886 Vol IV
  • Alumni Oxonienses 1715-1886 Vol V
  • Alumni Oxonienses 1715-1886 Vol VI
  • Alumni Oxonienses 1715-1886 Vol VII
  • Alumni Oxonienses 1715-1886 Vol VIII
  • Oxford Men and their Colleges, 1880-1892
  • War Record of the University Press, Oxford, 1914-1919


  • Historical Account of Lisbon College


  • County of Surrey Endowed Institutions Volume IV


  • Teachers and Officers of Ackworth School, 1779-1894


Read TheGenealogist’s article on researching more about an ancestor from the leads revealed in the pages of Educational Records:




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