Any Questions?

pexels-photo-356079.jpegHere is an opportunity for the #NotAtRootstech followers to pose a question. Rootstech Ambassadors are given the opportunity to interview the keynote speakers and celebrities who appear at RootsTech. Obviously there are only a certain number of opportunities and Ambassadors cannot be greedy and attempt to grab all the slots, so a system has been set up where we can apply for an opportunity to ask our chosen speakers some questions.

Some opportunities are described as “Sofa Chats” where a group of ambassadors sit down and chat and others “Backdrops” which someone has described as a Red Carpet style opportunity to pose a couple of questions.

The interview opportunities were released earlier this week and I have secured a sofa chat opportunity with Steve Redwood* CEO of FamilySearch on Wednesday 28th February and a backdrop opportunity to ask Henry Louis Gates Jr.* a couple of questions on Saturday March 3rd.

For those of you unable to attend Rootstech you can let me know what question you would wish to ask either of these speakers, and I will do my best to pose one of these questions on your behalf. Email me at

Obviously I can’t promise to ask your question, but I would be interested to hear your ideas.


*The RoostTech website provides these helpful biographies for both speakers

Stephen T. Rockwood is president and chief executive officer of FamilySearch International ( Rockwood, who most recently served as director of the international division at FamilySearch, became president and CEO on October 1, 2015. Prior to joining FamilySearch, Rockwood specialized in creating unique service offerings for worldwide customers of such brands as MasterCard International, AT&T, Disney, Office Depot, and Citibank among others. He was also a successful entrepreneur building two companies from the ground up that were later acquired by larger companies


Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University. Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, Professor Gates has authored or co-authored twenty-two books and created eighteen documentary films, including Wonders of the African World, African American Lives, Faces of America, Black in Latin America, Black America since MLK: And Still I Rise, Africa’s Great Civilizations, and Finding Your Roots, his groundbreaking genealogy series now in its fourth season on PBS. His six-part PBS documentary series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (2013), which he wrote, executive produced, and hosted, earned the Emmy Award


Rootstech 2018 News

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The Rootstech Live Streaming Schedule was announced yesterday 13 February. You can find details of the presentations by following the link

I appreciate that many people are unable to attend Rootstech in person and the live streaming enables people from around the world to at least get a flavour of what is happening. I must admit that it was my experience of watching the live streaming which fired my enthusiasm for attending. 2018 will be my third visit and I am really looking forward to meeting up with old friend from across the globe who share my passion for family history. I am also looking forward to making new friends and quite a few of the people I follow on Twitter.

I have converted the talk time table into UK Greenwich Mean Time to assist anyone who wants to take advantage of the streaming as the times are given in MST or Mountain Standard Time. I saw my Ambassador Colleague Jennie Fairs had done something similar to help viewers in Australia and I thought what a great idea.

For those of you who want to tweet during Rootstech but are watching at a distance, you might like to use the hashtag  #NotAtRootstech!


Wednesday 28th February

MST                                                    GMT

09.30 am                                           16.30

11.00 am                                           18.00

13.30                                                  20.30

15.00                                                  22.00

16.30                                                  23.30

Thursday March 1st

MST                                                    GMT

08.30                                                  15.30

11.00                                                 18.00

13.30                                                  20.30

15.00                                                  22.00

16.30                                                  23.30

Friday March 2nd

MST                                                    GMT

08.30                                                  15.30

11.00                                                 18.00

13.30                                                  20.30

15.00                                                  22.00

16.30                                                  23.30

Saturday March 3rd

MST                                                    GMT

08.30                                                  15.30

11.00                                                 18.00

13.30                                                  20.30

15.00                                                  22.00

The Power of the Ballot Box

Previous blogs have explained the background to the Compulsory Vaccination legislation, the role and responsibilities of the Guardians, the procedures involved in vaccination, the rules of the Anti Vaccination League and the profile of the league membership. This blog considers the role that electoral reform could have contributed to events in Keighley.

Two important pieces of legislation were passed in 1867 and 1872. The first, “The Reform Act”, or the Representation of the People Act 1867, 30 & 31 Vict. c. 10 widened the right to vote to more, but by no means all, working men. Votes were cast publicly and family historians have long made use of poll books to search for their ancestors. As votes were cast in such an open manner, there were concerns that undue influence could be brought to bear on electors. In 1872 An Act to amend the Law relating to Procedure at Parliamentary and Municipal Elections 35 & 36 Vict. c. 33, more commonly known as “The Ballot Act” changed the law again and introduced the secret ballot. Needless to say women were not enfranchised until much later – but that is another story!

Whilst I have not been able to locate any burgess/electoral rolls for the 1870s period, from my research into the social profile of the membership, I suspect that many of the members of the Keighley ACVL had become enfranchised as a result of the 1867 legislation. The ability to make use of the power of the ballot box to achieve their objectives – the removal of the compulsory element of vaccination – became a possibility.

The minute books of the KDACVL make frequent mention of identifying their own candidates to stand for election to the Board of Guardians. Reports of the outcome of elections in the local papers start to indicate the number of those elected who support the Anti-Compulsory Vaccination cause. The election of sympathisers to the Board of Guardians eventually resulted in the Board refusing to enforce the law as their office required and the Local Government Board taking steps to make the Guardians comply with the law. What followed was a protracted battle of wills between members of the Board of Guardians and the Local Government Board. Reading the Guardian Minute books and reports in the local paper, which give a far more colourful report compared to the bland minutes reported in the official record, show that there were also tensions amongst the Guardians themselves.

Ultimately, seven of the Guardians were imprisoned. These men, often referred to as “the Seven Wise Men of Keighley – Modern Martyrs” had used as their defence in court, the fact that they had promised their constituents they would not enforce the Act, and thus, could not break their promise to the electors.

You can find an image of these men at

For more information on electoral reform:

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© Sylvia Valentine

Trades and occupations

Getting ready to go to Who Do You Think You Are Live at Birmingham, but time to write an update to my blog before I go.

I have now completed writing up the membership lists and payments made by members between 1876 to 1891 into an Excel spreadsheet and made the list alphabetical so that anyone consulting the material in future will be able to find easily their ancestor and track that ancestors involvement with the organisation during the years, identify where they lived and see how they paid their subscriptions.

Payment of the subscriptions makes very interesting reading and is probably a reflection of the economic status of members. In the earlier years, more members paid their subscription monthly or bi monthly, but as time passed, many paid their dues every few months or even annually.  In 1884 a local printer brought out a local trade directory. By 1884, membership of the League was dwindling and stood at 57 members. I have checked those names in the directory and already found 24 members who were able to (presumably) pay to have their details inserted, and 4 members had taken out adverts in the directory.

Occupations included book sellers and stationers, coachman, farmers, boot repairers, cloggers*, drapers, tailors and outfitters, auctioneers, mechanics, a Chemist and herbalist. I liked the grandly titled “Accountant & property Agent for the Airedale Corporation Building & manufacturing Co Ltd & Secretary to the New England Land and Building Co Ltd” and was amused by the idea of the “Furniture Remover & Milk Dealer”. In other words, the membership comprised tradesmen, shop keepers and skilled workers, but the unskilled labourers working in the mills and iron foundries, the farm hands and the shop assistants were unable to afford the subscription which would help pay their fines in the event of non compliance with the law requiring their children to be vaccinated.

I suspect there was an earlier book annotating the members subscriptions, however this does not appear to have survived. In 1876, there were 221 members and by the following year the membership had increased to 254, then membership started to decline and by 1879, membership was reduced to 127. In the 1880s membership fluctuated and by 1891 only 31 names were recorded in the notebook however no subscriptions were recorded. About this time, the larger regional Yorkshire Anti Vaccination League came into being, and it seems that Keighley and District was no longer able to sustain an organisation in its own right.

*A clogger made the wooden soled shoes worn by mill workers etc. They had leather uppers, iron strips on the underside and a metal reinforced toe. There are still a few specialised clog manufacturers such as Walkleys a company based at Mytholmroyd near Hebden Bridge. I can remember seeing my grandmother, a Lancashire cotton weaver, wearing clogs until well into her retirement and they eventually fell apart!

Membership Rules

According to the Membership Card of the Keighley and District Anti Compulsory Vaccination League was established in 1872. Meetings were held at the Britannia Hall in Market Street in Keighley. The cards, printed by A. Appleyard of Cook Lane Keighley, were issued with a request to “Please keep this Card Clean” possibly a reflection on the nature of the work undertaken by some of the members – mill and iron foundry workers.

The back of the card gave some extracts from the rules and a stern notice:

Rule 4 – That an entrance fee of 1 shilling and a

payment of 1½d per week afterwards, constitute

membership. The League has power to make

levies should regular contributions fail to meet

expenses. Each person to have been a member for

six months before entitled to benefits.


Rule 5 – Members failing to pay their con-

tributions for six months (twenty four weeks)

successively, shall not be entitled to benefits or

protection from the League, until all arrears have

been paid up two months.


Rule 18 – Any persons having left the League

through arrears, and being desirous of again join-

ing, shall pay an entrance fee of 10 shillings and shall also

conform to rule 4.



Members when they receive a

Summons for non-compliance with the

Vaccination Acts, Must at once inform

the Corresponding Secretary; neglecting

to do so will disentitile them to benefits

or protection from the League.


Members removing are requested to

inform the Secretary of the same.

Unfortunately I have not yet been able to locate a copy of all the rules of the league, although I have found an entry in the Minute book dated 6 August 1874 instructing that a committee be established comprising:

“Robert Alsop Milner, A Clews, Robert Mitchell Fergus 0. Holmes & Richard Smith to be the committee to make the rules.”

 The rules were read to the assembled members and adopted at a meeting held on September 3rd 1876.

Robert Alsop Milner was a prime mover in the Keighley Anti Vaccination League and his name crops up frequently a number of times as the story unfolds.

A few years later, the League had printed and issued to members the following ” Caution”,  this an extract:

Caution to Members

 As magistrates have the power to apprehend by warrant
any person who fails to appear when summoned for non-com-
pliance with the Vaccination Acts and also the power to inflict
a penalty of 20s for not producing the child in court when
ordered by the summons to do so the League wishes it to be
understood that it Is the duty of the members either to appear
for themselves or by some relative or friend on this behalf.


And further the ‘league will not be responsible for any
expenses which may be incurred by members refusing or neglecting
to appear. Those members who are in favour of PAYING FINES
are respectfully requested to bear this in mind.


By order of the League

February 13 th 1879

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© Sylvia Valentine

Keighley and District Anti Compulsory Vaccination League Membership

Many people were distinctly unhappy about compulsory vaccination and in a number of locations around the country, groups set up in opposition to the compulsory vaccination. One such group was in Keighley in West Yorkshire. In the early 1870s a group of men set about forming the Keighley and District Anti Compulsory Vaccination League. They drafted a constitution and collected membership fees of 6d a month. (2.5p in today’s money) Keighley Local Studies library has a collection of material, including minute books and membership registers which record the payment their subscriptions. Many paid their subscription at the monthly meeting, but a few members paid more infrequently and a very few paid their money annually.

Over recent months I have been indexing the membership registers which commence in 1874 and continue for several years. As yet the work is incomplete, however one reason I am undertaking the indexing is because the book gives names, addresses and occasionally occupations. I am comparing this information with the 1871 and 1881 census returns, and wherever possible adding occupations to the list, in order to understand the profile of the membership. Once completed, I will be giving the library a copy of the information and I hope it might be useful in assisting locating the whereabouts of people between the censuses. The membership remained fairly steady for a number of years. Occasionally a note is made against a name to say “left town”, and sometimes says where that person went.

Looking at the occupations of the members, it is possible to understand the profile of the membership. Predominantly skilled manual labourers, small shop keepers and tradesmen made up the majority of the members, but it also included one or two prominent citizens of the town. Although the membership was male, it also had three women members. Two were the wives of Honorary Members but the third member was the licensee of a public house, but the following year, her name was crossed out and her husband’s name substituted. I have no evidence that any of these ladies attended any of the meetings though. I suspect their membership was a way of giving financial support for the cause. The membership remained fairly steady for a number of years. Occasionally a note is made against a name to say “left town”, and sometimes says where that person went.

As described in the earlier blogs, when smallpox vaccination was introduced, the responsibility for providing vaccinations became the responsibility of the Board of the Guardians of the Poor, more commonly known as the Workhouse Guardians. The Guardians appointed Public Vaccinators. Where their records have survived family historians can often find their ancestors, however many records have not survived. Your Family Tree Magazine had a useful article in their February issue on this topic.

I also came across this the other day, which may also be of interest to researchers with an interest in London.

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© Sylvia Valentine

Not for the faint hearted.

When we visit the doctor or nurse to be vaccinated, we know what to expect: Roll up your sleeve, have the vaccination site swabbed and experience a little discomfort as they stick the needle in. Vaccination in the 19th century was not like this. It was a painful and unpleasant experience, and to modern eyes, quite barbaric.

Nadia Durbach describes the method in the introduction to Bodily Matters. The Public Vaccinator would use a lancet to cut lines into the flesh to make a scored pattern in four places on the arm. The vaccine matter, referred to as lymph was then spread into the cuts. Whilst some private practitioners tended to use calf lymph, Public Vaccinators were encouraged by the government to use vaccine matter taken from the arm of a child vaccinated eight days previously. (Known as arm to arm vaccination) This required parents to return their child to the vaccinator in order that the lymph could be gathered from the blisters or vesicles which had formed on the child’s arm and smear it directly into the cuts on the second child’s arm. From 1871, parents who refused to permit their child’s lymph to be “harvested” were liable to a fine of 20 shillings. (£1)

The Public Vaccinators were employed by the Board of Guardians and paid either a salary or a fee for each successful vaccination performed. Vaccinators held clinics , often at the workhouse. Parents could use their own medical practitioner who could provide a certificate to confirm successful vaccination, although there was no definition of what constituted “successful”. Middle class parents did not want to take their children to see the public vaccinator, as the post was considered to be associated with poverty. They did not want to expose their children to “any other diseases the poor children might also be carrying”. There were also particular concerns about the transmission of syphilis as a result of the vaccination procedure and it was some years before this issue was addressed.

There were concerns about the ongoing epidemics which seemed to indicate smallpox vaccination was not working. During the 1860s steps were taken to improve the effectiveness of vaccination and the various groups within the medical establishment were extremely unhappy about being told how they ought to perform the procedure. There was considerable debate over a number of years about the role of non medically qualified people (the Board of Guardians) should be in a position to supervise and oversee the work of medical men. Deborah Brunton, in her book The Politics of Vaccination, describes in detail the tensions between medical men, the government , the Medical Office of the Privy Council who wrote the guidance about vaccination methods and Local Government Commission who were responsible for overseeing the work of the Guardians.

Further Reading

Brunton Deborah The Politics of Vaccination, Practice and Policy in England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland 1800 – 1874 Woodbridge 2008

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© Sylvia Valentine