A sense of open-ness and intrigue…..

Project Evaluator Dr Sara Giddens shares her first experience of The Amazing Pop Up Archives Project when the project team met back in June 2016.

So here we all are, gathered together in a hot sunny day in Matlock, at the Derbyshire Record Office (DRO). What stunning surroundings. The meeting room looks out over the hills and valley of this Market Town and is exquisitely furnished in wall-paper designed by Paula Moss in her former role as artist-in-residence. Paula is now here in the capacity of our co-host, with a DRO Archivist, Karen Millhouse. I take to the project and the project leaders immediately. The artists, although defined as creative facilitators for this project, archivists, lecturers and students are given time and space to listen to each other, to dwell for a while in their similarities and differences. No-one is rushed, there is a sense of open-ness and intrigue.

DRO Panorama1

I’m sure, like many of the others I am wondering what process might evolve?

The archivist Karen and project researcher Kate Henderson clearly know their stuff, they give off an air of considered confidence, with more than a little passion thrown in for good measure. There are 3 million items in their collection, where might we start?

 

We begin somewhat appropriately from a map, which we learn was also the inspiration for the colours used in the recent re-design of the interior of the record office. The poet Matt Black, one of the four lead creative facilitators, reads us his poem, written for the record office, inspired by a tiny detail in the map, a ladder propped up against a tree and his wonderings of who went up that ladder. He matches the archivist’s knowledge and passion with his own obvious mastery of his craft.

He is WONDERING, we are delighting in his wondering and before the close of the meeting, those on The Amazing Pop Up Archives Project team have been re-branded as Agents of Wonder.

I love it when a plan comes together…

… with the original survey book alongside which it was created.

Plans and survey books are easily separated.  They are superficially very different: a survey may look like a standard hardback of several pages, and the plan that goes with it may be a single sheet, rolled up or folded.  The difference in size and shape means the pair of items are unlikely to be stored on the same shelf or in the same box.  In fact, each might be so useful on its own that from time to time, their custodians forget that they two items were designed to complement one another.

Here’s how they work together.  See the plot numbered 358 on this poor rate plan of Brimington dating from 1827? I have highlighted it with a black arrow.

D177 A PC 37

If I want to find out more about it, I can look at the survey book, and see that it was a Blacksmith’s shop and hovel, owned and occupied by George Richards, amounting to three perches in area.

D636 A PO 1

When Brimington Parish Council was created, as a consequence of the Local Government Act of 1894, the civil functions of Brimington parish began to be administered under a separate authority for the first time.  The church parish, meanwhile, retained its ecclesiastical duties.  In the division of assets, whether by accident or design, the new parish council got to keep the book, while the church held on to the plan.  Come the 1960s, each of these bodies began to deposit its historic records here, so that the survey and plan ended up in separate collections.

Today I added a cross-reference to the catalogue, and I believe it was the first time that anyone at our end had linked the two things together – although I gather from a researcher who visited today that both documents are mentioned by Philip J Cousins in his “Brimington : the changing face of a Derbyshire village”, published to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the parish council.

If you ever want to visit us to use the documents in our search room, or order a paid search of their contents, here are the all-important reference numbers: the book is D636/A/PO/1, and the plan is D177/A/PC/37.

GRO latest

 

 

office-picture

 

Great news for family historians, courtesy of the Lost Cousins website:

The General Register Office has just launched new online indexes of births and deaths for England & Wales which not only make ordering of certificates easier, they provide additional information that will make it easier than ever before for family historians to find the right entries.

See

http://lostcousins.com/newsletters2/specialnov16news.htm

and

http://lostcousins.com/newsletters2/nov16news.htm

Sue Peach

Finding your feet with Family History

Starting to do family history can seem a daunting task! Although there is now lots of information online with the help of websites such as Ancestry and Find My Past there are also numerous books which are a fantastic, tangible source of information and knowledge. These are excellent in providing a background of the type of sources you might come across, and why records appear in the they way they do! Forewarned is forearmed, as they say…

I asked an experienced colleague what she would recommend (thanks Vicky!) and she came up with two titles from our reference library:

‘The Oxford Companion to Family and Local History’ by David Hey

Family  History 5

David Hey’s guide is about as comprehensive as you can get! The thematic articles range from getting started with your family tree, to dealing with tracing your background by nationality and ethnicity, to searching agricultural and industrial histories. There is an absolutely indispensable A-Z glossary of terms you might come across and a useful list of all Record Offices and Special Collections in the UK.

‘Tracing your Ancestors through Local History Records’ by Jonathan Oates

Family History 7

Oates’ useful guide is easy on the eye, with illustrations and photographs of examples of the types of local history records that you might encounter in your search.  It explains the historical background to records in England, and looks at lots of different sources: books, journals, illustrations, maps and newspapers.  Although parish registers are the most popular way of searching a family tree, these other sources can provide a wider feel for the time and place family members lived, and how they lived.

I’d also recommend ‘Essential Maps for Family Historians’ by Charles Masters – it’s incredible how much information maps have – from Estate maps, enclosure and tithe maps to The National Farm Survey.

Family History 8

In addition to the more general guides, there are also specialist books which can help you trace ancestors who were in the Armed Forces, in a lunatic asylum, worked as a coalminer, lived in the colonies, in the clergy or were travellers, to name a few! The series of books ‘My Ancestor was a…’published by the Society of Genealogists are well illustrated and explain in plain language the historical background that these people would have lived in as well as the sort of records you could search to find information about them.

There is also a light-hearted look at the potential pitfalls of researching your family in ‘Granny was a Brothel Keeper’, which provides useful tips on how to avoid being led up the garden path, and a subtle warning about not believing everything you might see (and hear from well-meaning family members!) Written in no-nonsense terms (as you may have gathered from the title), there are real life researchers’ stories and lessons to be learned.

Family History 4

Of course, if you are desperate to get back to a computer screen, you might find ‘The Family History Web Directory’ extremely handy!

Family History 6

All the books mentioned can be found in our Local Studies library, along with our research guides at the Enquiry Desk. Libraries also have subscriptions to the Ancestry and Find My Past websites, so these can be accessed on the Library computers.

Please let us know if you have any personal recommendations or tips when researching family history, and we’ll be happy to pass them on!

Treasure 30: The photographs of Frank H Brindley

This treasure was nominated by our erstwhile colleague Mark Higginson, who has recently left Picture the Past to become manager of the museum and visitor centre at Belper North Mill.  We wish him all the best in his new role.  Mark writes:

A recent addition to Picture the Past has been a collection of prints taken by Sheffield-based freelance press photographer Frank H Brindley, who photographed northern parts of the Peak District.

Often Brindley’s pictorial submissions to local newspapers would be accompanied by a caption or even a short typed article.  Some of these have survived and give a unique insight into both the man and life from the 1930s through to the 1950s.

This has been a fascinating collection to work with and demonstrates how preserving this information enables a better understanding of the context in which such pictures came to be taken.  A picture may well be worth a 1,000 words, but a 1,000 words, or even a few dozen, certainly adds something to an image!

To see more of Brindley’s work, go to www.picturethepast.org.uk and click Advanced Search, then choose “Brindley F H” from the “Search by Photographer” menu.

These photographs form part of the 50 Treasures exhibition currently in our vitrine wall.

Joseph Waterfall – Poet of the Peak with ability

Do you ever get side-tracked by a subject while researching another? Most of us have at some point! This is probably one of the strangest and most interesting ‘distractions’ I have encountered. As part of a future exhibition about cycling, I have been searching through the Record Office for interesting bicycle-related items. During a thorough search of the Local Studies card index catalogue,  I came across a reference to ‘Waterfall, J Poems (broadsheets) published by J Waterfall 1890s.’

Card Ref Waterfall

It turned out to be a large book of printed poems and articles about Bakewell and the surrounding area, by a gentleman called Joseph Waterfall. His writings are entertaining and interesting in themselves, but the book also revealed an amazing insight into the author’s life, which raises many questions. We live in a day and age where it’s easy to be sceptical, and this story really is sometimes quite hard to believe.

According to the available information about him, Joseph was born in Maidstone, Kent, without the use of his legs and with limited use of his arms and hands.  He was born of poor parents, had no education, and in addition to doing some shoe shining, mainly lived off parish relief due to his disability. He spent the last years of his life in an almshouse in Bakewell. He would cut out the letters of his articles and poems from old papers and place them on a sheet where they would then be printed.

Cut and Paste

These ‘broadsheets’ were sold for a penny to supplement his income, until he tragically died in a fire in his almshouse, in 1902.  This was apparently reported in a local Bakewell newspaper. His story is so unbelievable even a film or book about it probably couldn’t do it justice! This is a letter from a lady who bought one of his broadsheets:

A Letter

Having reached this point I decided to see what would happen if I searched for Joseph on the internet.  This turned up a published document (I am unable to provide a link but the search terms I used were “Joseph Waterfall Bakewell”) that a Mr David Trutt, from Los Angeles, California had written, called ‘Joseph Waterfall Poems: The Poet of the Peak.’ It appears he had been inspired by the author during a visit to the Local Studies library in Matlock in 2007, while researching Haddon Hall poetry. His interest was such that it prompted him to look at census records, parish registers and newspapers about Joseph. He obviously spent a great deal of time looking for information about him, and it’s extremely fortunate that he published this research. In Mr Trutt’s words:

“The poems and unusual life story of Joseph Waterfall were found by chance.

The editor has found no reference to Joseph Waterfall in books about Bakewell or

Derbyshire; and is loath to allow this information, which surfaced by chance, to

once again disappear.”

Having done a quick search of the Record Office online catalogue it appears that there is a little bit more information about him (which I will definitely be pursuing, along with the newspaper report!)

In the meantime here are some of his articles and poems.  If anyone has any further information about this incredible story please get in touch!

Remarkable Places and EventsQueen VictoriaDorothy's FlightChristmas

Oh, by the way, after realising I had been (gladly) waylaid by his story, yes, there was a poem in there about cycling that he wrote, which I hope will be appearing in our forthcoming exhibition!