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The new IWM London revealed

Karen Clare gives a glimpse behind the doors of the newly-transformed IWM London ahead of its reopening to the public.

Imperial War Museums London

Imperial War Museums London.

The Imperial War Museums’ (IWM) flagship London branch in Southwark reopens tomorrow (Saturday 19 July), a year after closing for a hugely impressive £40m redevelopment in time for the centenary of the First World War.

Officially launched by the Duke of Cambridge and Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday, it is a remarkable and poignant memorial to our ancestors who lived through and died in the Great War.

This major revamp has included the building’s Atrium which, redesigned by Foster + Partners, houses nine of the IWM’s most iconic large objects, including a Spitfire and V-1 rocket. It is a breath-taking introduction to the museum’s treasures. Each object in ‘Witnesses to War’ tells a story in this bright, white new space, but it is the museum’s ground-breaking First World War Galleries that really take your breath away.

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Exclusive subscriber offers

As a print or digital subscriber to Family Tree you can enter exclusive competitions and take advantage of special offers just for you.

Royal-Navy-DVDs Great-War-100In the August issue we have the following books and DVDs to give away! The competitions are open until 10 October 2014. Simply email to enter – more details can be found on page 60 of your magazine.

  • Three copies each of Royal Navy in the Forties: The War Years and Royal Navy in the Forties: The Post-War Years DVDs.
  • Two copies of The First World War 100: The First World War in Infographics book.

[Read more...]

Family Tree August subscription offer

Family Tree August 2014Save 33%* when you subscribe to Family Tree today!

Pay only £19.99 every 6 issues and save on the shop price!

Try it today, quote code FTAUGUST2014. Go to [Read more...]

Family Tree magazine August 2014

Family Tree August 2014Family Tree August 2014 is on sale now! From the last days of summer 1914, through final family photos, medals and memorials – learn more about your ancestors’ long years of war in our WW1 special issue. Also inside this issue… get out & about to discover ‘real world’ family history; laws that changed lives; saving family photos; famous forebears; your stories; & more… Plus, free digital data for every reader!

You can download the digital edition right now - click here!

The benefits of getting out & about Get out from behind the computer and discover ‘real world’ records.
Telling our stories… Find out what’s in store when IWM London reopens its doors following the completion of its new First World War Galleries.
Finding the fallen Learn how to locate the monuments, graves, cemeteries and rolls of honour for those who gave their lives in the First World War.
Laws that changed lives We look at Acts of Parliament that affected our ancestors’ lives and made family history research possible.
Understanding medal index cards Get to grips with these useful wartime records in this Document Workshop.
Picturing families at war, 1914-1918 What can family photographs taken between 1914 and 1918 reveal about our ancestors’ experiences of WW1?
Hospital studies Research Zone this issue shines a light on a project to put hospital records online.
Free digital data Get access to free records via our exclusive family tree search site.

Saving our family photos – will family photographs survive the digital age?
Reader story – ‘A true British soldier’.
The last days of peace – we look back at the last glorious days of summer before the outbreak of the First World War.
Putting the record straight – a conundrum in the census records leads to a few surprises.
How ‘famous’ were your forebears? – Did your ancestor have the X-Factor? Find out what it took to be a ‘celebrity’ in days gone by.
Rehab & rolls of honour – more about the cinema industry’s role in WW1.
Twiglets – catch up with the latest adventures of our tree-tracing diarist Gill Shaw.
Thoughts on… Diane Lindsay ponders pioneer ancestors.

Regulars: Genealogy news; Dear Tom – genealogical miscellany; Your Q&A, including photo-dating & military advice; Reviews of the latest books, CDs & apps; Mailbox – your letters; Diary dates.

Never miss an issue of Family Treesubscribe today and save! Check out our latest subscription offer here. Already a subscriber? Discover this issue’s exclusive Family Tree subscriber benefits.

Do you have an iPad, Kindle Fire or other smart device? Download Family Tree digital now!

From the Family Tree archives

Family Tree is celebrating its 30th birthday this year! With the November 2014 issue Family Tree will be 30 years old and by some margin the oldest national family history magazine published in Britain. Michael Armstrong, the founder of Family Tree, has been delving into the archives, recalling some of the treasures we’ve published, many of which were sent in by our readers over the years…

Divorce, always an expensive business, is considered by many to be an indulgence of only the rich in years past.  Barbara Marlow proved otherwise in an article she submitted to Family Tree and which appeared in the July-August 1985 issue.

Divorce was not only for the rich, judging by the case of Biggins v Biggins in 1862.  The Marriage broke down in 1857, the year that divorce proceedings left the Ecclesiastical Courts and divorce required an Act of Parliament.

In 1851,  Robert Biggins and his wife Margaret were living together over a fruiterer’s shop run by his parents in Queens Street, Devonport.  Mr Biggins was a smithy in the dockyard.  In terms of mid-Victorian society, they were of artisan class.  Reading the following report one wonders if Mrs Biggins realised the impact of the new law.

‘Council for the petitioner is Dr Spinks of Messrs Beer and Rundle.  The petitioner resides at Devonport and is employed in HM Dockyard.  It appeared from the evidence given by Mr Petherick and Mrs Wilcocks that in 1857 while the petitioner was absent from the yard, his wife received visits from a person named Soper.

‘It further appeared that, upon Mr Biggins being informed of these visits, he charged her with familiarity with Soper and refused to live with her.  He sent her away and made her a weekly allowance.’

From the further evidence of Mr Henry Bryant, an inspector of the police, and Mrs Cocker, it appeared that the conduct of Mrs Biggins since her separation from her husband left no doubt of her having been guilty of the charges.  The court, after hearing the evidence of the witnesses, awarded a decree nisi for the dissolution of the marriage.

The new law allowed the husband to apply for a divorce if his wife had committed adultery. A wife could obtain a divorce only if it was coupled with desertion and cruelty. Bigamy was also grounds for divorce.

In 1937, divorce was legalised in Britain for grounds other than adultery. In 1970, the breakdown of a marriage could be the sole grounds for divorce in Britain.

Families did not usually discuss these matters.  Such an incidence might be at the root of your genealogical problem. A look at the indexes of the Public Record Office (now The National Archives at Kew) will assist you.

For files of proceedings of divorce you need to refer to the Principal Probate registry, divorce file ref: J77 1858-1934.

By the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873,  the Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Cause was absorbed by the Probate Divorce and Admiralty Division. The files preserved in this class contain minutes, pleadings and decrees in alphabetical order. Index reference number J78.

One should bear in mind that many of the articles in this series appeared nearly 30 years ago and before going to Kew it will be worth checking what’s now available online. A useful starting point would be The National Archives’ guide to divorce records at

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