There are some moments in the daily round of historical research that make you feel warm and fuzzy and help to make it all worth while. There have been several of these lately. Yesterday I went to our local school to present prizes to pupils who had entered a competition run by Devon Family History Society’s Acorn Club. This was one of the outcomes of Buckland Brewer History Group’s involvement with the school, helping them to investigate the role of local men in World War 1. I had forgotten to factor in Children in Need day. I was one of the only people in the room not dressed as a super hero. I am not sure that my explanation – ‘I am me on a posh day’ – sufficed.
This week I was able to provide a young person, who is not in contact with half of their family, with details of their ancestors. The reaction ‘This is the best thing that happened to me in a long time. I feel a little bit more placed in this world now I know more of my family. I haven’t stopped smiling.’ reminded me why I do this.
I have enjoyed presenting to appreciative audiences, sharing three very different strands of history. Mistress Agnes aided by Master Christopher, instructed the Bridport Group of Somerset and Dorset Family History Society in the ways of the seventeenth century. This was followed by an online one place study session and a talk about emigration from North Devon to a local U3A. Next, I shall be discussing witchcraft in Bude and then more one place studies at the Society of Genealogists.
It has been ‘Explore Archives’ week in the UK and I visited my local record office. We are now so used to records being available online that we forget the plethora of documents that are only available in repositories; repositories that are increasingly under threat. So the good news that many more Devon records have been uploaded by FindmyPast, is tempered by the realisation that this will decrease the footfall in the record office and help to provide ammunition for those seeking to close the archives. The fact that without archives and archivists documents could not be preserved, catalogued, digitised and made available online, escapes many people. More on this here.
But back to the happy stuff. The wonderful world of genealogical and local historical collaboration came to the surface recently. I have exchanged information with the one-place researcher for the Buckinghamshire village where my grandmother was born. I have been sent a newspaper report, telling me that my great grandmother won prizes at the village show in 1872. In another newspaper report, I learned of the exploits of young people in my home village. All this information was thanks to the generosity of other researchers.
In an effort to spread the goodwill, I have enrolled on a (thankfully very short) ‘fun’ run. Can ‘fun’ and ‘run’ be used in the same sentence? So, in aid of Children’s Hospice South West, on November 30th, I shall be dressed as Santa (yes really) ‘running’ along Bideford Quay. I am touched by those who have sponsored me so far; additional sponsors are welcome.