How not to use a microfiche reader, plaudits for Northumberland Record Office, Dade Registers and mega scale maps

We wake to a white world as there has been a frost over night but another lovely autumn day. Today we are going to the Northumberland Record Office. Yes it is Sunday but yes we really are going to a Record Office and yes it really is open. The recently created archives complex at Woodhorn is a joy to behold. Situated on an old pit, with some of the workings still on display, it has a museum on site and is next to a Country Park AND is open weekends. Other archives take note, although it was disappointing that more people weren’t taking advantage of this. The Country Park is potentially handy for non-researching travel companions; I though recruit my travel companion to assist. It was one of those days when you try to cram a fortnight’s research into two hours. We don’t do too badly until it comes to trying to use the reader printer, when all common sense seems to desert us and we really can’t seem to get it to produce a decent copy. Encouraged by a fellow researcher who informs us that inadequate copies are not charged for, we try several times with varying success. I end up threading the film in backwards and requiring frequent help from the staff. Felling like both a newbie and a numpty, I give up the plan to obtain copies of all parish register entries for my direct ancestors.

Some strokes of luck though. The baptism entries for siblings of great great grandma Pearson are of the Dade Register format. These are hugely detailed, giving mother’s maiden name, position in the family and the parish of origin of both parents. Next, to ask for the Board of Health maps mentioned in my newly acquired book about Morpeth. These are brilliant and show that 42 Newgate Street today, as photographed on Friday as the abode of Isabella Pearson in 1851, was not number 42 in 1851. Number 42 was then down one of the ‘lanes’ hidden behind the then number 39. Fortunately, on Friday, I did duck up some private alley to see what was there and I think I have captured a picture of Isabella’s home behind the shops without knowing it at the time. Today has not been an overwhelming success as regards getting copies of documents. The member of staff at the desk is unsure if I can photograph the map; they can do it for me at great cost. He agrees to ask the boss when she comes back from lunch. It must have been a good lunch as I have permission! My reaction to the news that I am allowed to photograph a 120″ to the mile (yes that was the scale) map of Morpeth was something akin to an X factor contestant learning that they had been put through to the next round. I am not sure clenching my fist bringing my bent elbow down and hissing ‘YES!’, was wholly appropriate but hey. I do decide not to ask if I can stand on the table to take the photograph, which I have done in another repository; I have probably embarrassed my fellow researcher sufficiently.

We reluctantly leave the archives, stopping for a quick look at the naive art created by miners in the mid 20th. We have a bit of trouble pinpointing a couple of family locations before arriving at the row of cottages inhabited by John Hogg in 1851. I am very pleased to have positively identified an ancestral abode at last. We can’t ignore the Braund research so finish the day at Cramlington, a much larger settlement than we were expecting. Some Braunds who had been mining in Cornwall were drafted in to the Cramlington mines in the 1880s when the Northumbrian miners were on strike. This probably didn’t endear them to their new neighbours. We arrive at the church at an appropriate time, squeezing in our visit between a christening and harvest festival.

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