Meet the History Interpreter – a series of online talks

Welcome to the online world of the History Interpreter. I will be presenting a programme of online talks that are open to all. The topics include British family history, social history and local history. Some will be hosted by Mistress Agnes in my stead. Each session will be delivered via the Zoom platform and will last approximately one hour. Most sessions will be accompanied by a comprehensive handout and there will be occasional offers and prizes for attendees. There is a nominal charge of £2.50 per session, or £20 for the 2020 series. The days and times vary to accommodate a worldwide audience. At present, these are live sessions and can only be watched at the time stated. I am investigating the possibility of making them available afterwards, so watch this space. Please contact me for details of how to attend. For details of more presentations, arranged by other organisations, please see here. Bookings need to be made at least 24 hours before the talk starts.

2.00pm BST Saturday 27 June 2020 Toleration or Turmoil?: English non-conformity and our ancestors

This talk is not just for those with English ancestors who worshipped outside the established Church of England. It does not focus on sources for tracing non-conformist ancestry, as many books and websites do that more that adequately. Instead, it considers the effect of a non-conformist presence on local communities. Whether our ancestors were the conformist Anglicans or the non-conformists of a wide variety of denominations, life would not be the same once there were alternative places of worship in a locality. This presentation considers the impact that groups of non-conformists had on social order and looks at the persecution of various religious groups. Then the relationship between non-conformity and emigration will be discussed. Were non-conformists more likely to emigrate and if so why? How did non-conformist groups impact on the world of work? Did being a member of a non-conformist group have a detrimental effect on mental health? Finally, non-conformity as a force for cohesion or division within a community will be investigated.

7.00pm BST Saturday 11 July 2020 Besoms, Battledores, Bedsteads and Bum Rolls: the role of women in the seventeenth century

Our Stuart female ancestors may be people we can identify, or they may be lurking, nameless, waiting to be discovered. In either case they existed, therefore we owe it to them to find out more about their way of life. This session provides an all-important context for these women; women whose detailed biographies probably elude us. Delivered by Mistress Agnes in period costume, this presentation describes cooking, cleaning, the making and laundering of clothes, maintaining the garden and the many other tasks of the Stuart housewife. At this time a woman’s work truly was never done.

10.30am BST Saturday 25 July 2020 Occupational Hazards: the working lives of our ancestors

In the days before Health and Safety, many of the occupations undertaken by our ancestors were injurious to health. Some, such as mining or fishing were clearly dangerous but what were the risks for lawyers, fishmongers or grocers? If you descend from a long line of match girls, munitionettes, knife grinders, hatters or bakers, (or several other trades) this is the opportunity to see how their health may have suffered as a consequence of the work that they did.

2.00pm BST Wednesday 12 August 2020 Sense and the Census

The nineteenth and early twentieth century census returns are often some of the first records that family historians use but how much do you know about the British census returns? By highlighting some of the more amusing census entries, this talk helps us to understand these records better. The session includes hints on how to locate our more elusive ancestors and how to make sense of what we see on the census page.

2.00pm BST Saturday 29 August 2020 Online book launch for **** ** *** ** *******: researching the story of C17th Bideford FREE SESSION registration is required.

7.00pm BST Friday 4 September 2020 Madness, Mania and Melancholia: the mental health of our ancestors

The history of mental ill-health is poorly understood and many of those who were labelled as ‘idiots’, ‘imbeciles’ or ‘lunatics’ in the past would have a very different diagnosis today. This presentation looks at the history of reactions to and the treatment of those who we would now recognise as being mentally ill, or as having a learning disability. It also investigates the institutions where sufferers might be held and the sources we can use to find out more about these, often forgotten, members of our family.

2.00pm BST Tuesday 15 September 2020 Tulips, Topiary, Tradescanth and Thyme: seventeenth century gardens

This talk is delivered by Mistress Agnes on one of her rare visits from the seventeenth century. She will describe gardening and the importance of gardens their time, ranging from the country house gardens of Inigo Jones to the labourers’ cottage gardens. Find out how vital gardens were to the household economy of our ancestors and how various plants could be used. What would be eaten? Which plants were used in the production of textiles? What form of pest control was used? Why do we plant bay trees outside our door? What plants have a household use? How can plants be used to cure illnesses? Mistress Agnes will answer all these questions and share her experience of the Stuart period.

7.00pm BST Saturday 10 October 2020 Ship to Shore: researching seagoing ancestors

This session will cover a range of documentary sources and websites that might be useful to researchers wishing to learn more about those who went to sea, or were part of coastal communities. It looks at records relating to travel, employment and the hazards of the ocean.

7.00pm BST Friday 23 October 2020 (*Take care with time difference*) ’Til Death Us Do Part: a look at the history of medicine 1300-1948

One thing that all but our most recent ancestors have in common is that they are dead. The diseases and accidents of our ancestors are an integral part of our family history. In the absence of a definite cause of death for a particular individual, we can at least gain an impression of the major killers of their time. We owe it to our ancestors to pay tribute not just to their lives but also to their deaths. This talk looks at killer diseases, cures and medical theories from the Black Death to the NHS. It also suggests records that may be used to provide information about how an ancestor died.

10.00am GMT Saturday 14 November 2020 From Family Fact to Family Fiction: Barefoot on the Cobbles

This presentation explains the research that underpins the creation of this story, some of the family and social history sources used and the problems of combining fact and fiction. Barefoot on the Cobbles is a novel that was published in November 2018. Growing up, barefoot on the cobbles, in a village on the rugged North Devon coast, Daisy was aware of the perils of the uncertain sea. Her family were also exposed to the dangers of disease and of the First World War but for Daisy, it was her own mother who posed the greatest threat of all. What was it about her mother’s origins, in an isolated rural community, that drove an ordinary fisherman’s wife to take such desperate measures in order to preserve her sanity? Vividly recreating life at the dawning of the twentieth century, this story is based on a real scandal that lay hidden for nearly a century. Rooted in its unique and beautiful geographical setting, here is the unfolding of a past that reverberates unhappily through the decades and of raw emotions that are surprisingly modern in character.

7.00pm GMT Friday 20 November 2020 Found under a Gooseberry Bush: finding missing births or baptisms

A range of sources and techniques for locating that illusive ancestor. This is an ideal talk for beginners, slow starters or the generally stuck family historian.

2.00pm GMT Tuesday 8 December 2020 From Victorians to Elizabethans: tracing our English Ancestors from 1901-1952

We often neglect the twentieth century as being ‘not really history’ but there is plenty to be discovered about individuals and the communities in which they lived between 1901 and 1952. Twentieth century research brings with it the difficulties of larger and more mobile populations as well as records that are closed to view, so here are some sources that can help you to bring those more recent ancestors to life.