Chesterfield and District Family History Society Fair

CADFHS Fair 2016

Hullo!  I’m here at Outwood Academy in Newbold for the annual family history fair run by the Chesterfield and District Family History Society – feel free to drop by if you are in the vicinity.  Our stall is right next to m’colleagues from Chesterfield Library‘s renowned local studies section and opposite the equally-renowned Chesterfield Museum.  I can also spot Derbyshire Record Society just over there in the middle.  I’ll wander over and say how do in a minute.

Preserving Your Past at Chesterfield Museum on 11 August

If you’re in Chesterfield tomorrow (Thursday 11 August), why not pop in to Chesterfield Museum and find out how to look after your old family letters and photographs?  My Preserving your Past talk starts at 1.00pm and explains how our treasured possessions can get damaged and what you can do to ensure they’ll survive for future generations to enjoy.  Feel free to bring along letters, books and photographs if you would like some specific advice after the talk – I’ll be there till the museum closes at 4.00pm.

 

 

Bryan Donkin book launched

There was a great turn-out at Chesterfield for the launch of Maureen Greenland and Russ Day’s new book, “Bryan Donkin: The Very Civil Engineer, 1768-1855”. The town is rightly proud of the company that Donkin created, and the legacy of technological innovation that it leaves us.

There was a slide show, the screening of a film about Donkin’s Rose Engine (dating from 1820, now housed at the Science Musuem), and we had some of those extraordinary engineering drawings on display:

We were also lucky to hear from former Donkin managing director Terry Woodhouse, who told us about his first encounters with the DonkDonkin_launch_2in archive, which he was instrumental in preserving for future generations. Terry described just a few of the ideas that Bryan Donkin’s talents and perseverance were able to turn into a reality: a machine for making paper, the first cans for preserving food, more efficient nibs for pens, an anti-fraud device used in the manufacture of bank-notes. One can argue that Donkin has never been given full recognition for his achievements – that’s something that this book will undoubtedly address.

Free talk: Preserving Your Past

Many of us have our own little (or even quite large) archive at home: letters, photographs, diaries and other treasures that remind us where we’ve come from and bring us close to loved ones who aren’t around anymore. If you’d like to find out how best to care for these unique family heirlooms, do come along to the Derby Family History Festival on Wednesday 8 June at Derby Central Library, where I will be delivering a talk at 12.30 entitled ‘Preserving Your Past’.  I’ll explain how paper and other records get damaged and what you can do to protect your archive, so you can pass it on safely to future generations.

The Record Office will be there all day with a stall as well and there are lots of other talks and activities going on, as you can see on the poster:

 

poster 3

 

poster 2

We hope to see you there!

 

A week in the life of a work experience student…

As a student with an interest in history (hoping to go on to studying this at university), I chose the archives as the ideal work placement for my year 12 work experience. With this in mind I applied to the Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock and have been spending a week here observing the work that is done.

On Monday morning I began my week of work experience at 9 o’clock starting with a tour of the record office itself (including archives and local studies). I was surprised by the amount of resources available especially in terms of the number of documents kept at the record office; with almost five miles of shelving to boast of throughout one can only imagine the amount of information available. Then there are the documents themselves. It was amazing to see the original and unique documents kept at the record office as well as how well they have been preserved. My first afternoon was spent in conservation, something I was eager to see; as well as being made aware of the different dangers posed to the documents kept at the record office (including temperature, humidity, insect damage, wear and possible fire damage) and how these risks are managed (for example through carefully monitoring the environment), I was also shown the different methods of repairing documents that have been damaged. I was even able to try a preservation technique for myself in the form of cleaning some documents.

On my second day I helped in a year five school session, in order to complete a project on local history they wished to use the facilities at the record office. The areas of interest included John Smedley, the hydros of Matlock, and begin to look at how leisure has changed from the industrial revolution. In order to fulfil this a session had been planned in which the children would look at documents relating to John Smedley, use documents to create their own exhibition on hydros, and create a timeline of leisure activities which had been sourced from the information available from the archives. There were two groups of students; those who weren’t at the record office were taken into Matlock in order to see how the town has changed from past photos to the present day. I found it enjoyable to work with the children and see how enthusiastic most were about the activities that had been planned for them. They seemed pleased to be able to use primary sources to find out more about figures they had studied (such as John Smedley).

Wednesday morning was spent in local studies which houses books relating to Derbyshire and also has computers where people can begin to research their family history. I was given a tour of the facilities offered then using Ancestry.co.uk was able to look at different types of census data (for example how the census changed between 1911 and 1841). Then, using the available facilities, I was given an example enquiry and had to find information about the given person – this included looking at their family through different censuses and finding baptism records to place approximate dates of birth. Although I did attempt some family history the fact that my surname is so common made it difficult. After lunch the project work began and my first task was re-cataloguing documents relating to Derbyshire sent from Sheffield Archives, this was a rather broad collection (ranging from a deed from 1386 to accounts). Admittedly some of the text was difficult to read (especially the older documents), however it became much easier over time to provide a description and locate a date. The information will soon be input into the online catalogue. The documents also needed to be numbered so that they worked with the system employed at the record office. Part of what I enjoyed most about the placement was the fact that I was able to get so close to the original documents therefore the project work was some of my favourite that I completed over the week.

Another part of the record office I experienced on my placement was the search room, this was on Thursday morning. After a tour and introduction to the services offered (including how specific documents could be found), I was able to order recipe books so that the second project could begin. This involved typing up the contents of recipe books which would then be available on the online catalogue. Whilst some of the recipes were familiar to me (including Bakewell pudding and gingerbread), others were not for example the extraordinary variety of wine. As these had been hand written it was often difficult to decipher exactly what the recipe was of, especially due to the fact that multiple authors were sometimes involved, although eventually the meaning could be found resulting in a lovely sense of accomplishment. The afternoon was then spent with ‘Picture the Past’, a project involving Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Derby City and Nottingham City aiming to digitise original photographs of the areas. These could be from libraries sent by the local authority or donated by the public and, as a result, there are photos of most areas on the website. Work here included checking links on the website and discussing how the services offered by ‘Picture the Past’ could be used in schools. To see the work done by the ‘Picture the Past’ project please see http://www.picturethepast.org.uk/. From searching the area in which I live I was able to see images of the railway and factories that had been present. It was fascinating to see how much the local area has changed even if there was some sense of familiarity in the landscape.

On my final day at the record office I continued with the work sent from Sheffield Archives (as several boxes were to be catalogued). Handling the documents myself made me aware of the huge amount of information held by the record office not only including legal documents but also personal letters and pedigree charts.

My week spent at the record office has been a truly interesting one, I have been fascinated by the documents I have seen and also the amount of resources that the record office and local studies offers to the public. As a result of my interest in history it has been remarkable to view and touch the documents that have evident historical importance.

Anna Burton

 

 

 

Lead-mining seminar (and please like PDMHS on Facebook)

We have just concluded the second in a series of seminars on the Derbyshire lead-mining industry, chaired by Matthew Pawelski (pop that surname into the search box just below the Derby City Council logo to see related earlier posts).  Steve Thompson kicked us off with a presentation on the usefulness of tithe and enclosure records for historians in this field, and Matt then spoke about what can be discovered in account books.  Both speakers were exemplary at keeping to time, which meant that, as hoped, the majority of the event could be devoted to discussion around the table. I was pleased to see we had a new participant who had made the decision to come along on the strength of the video about the Gregory Mine reckoning book which was posted here last month.  So do feel free to join in: we will publicise the next in the series as soon as the date is settled.

pdmhs

Among the assembly was George Jaramillo of the University of Edinburgh, who has been looking after the Facebook page of the Peak District Mines Historical Society.  He remarked that the page is close to the 100 “likes” threshold, beyond which it can be picked up by search engines.  If you are a Facebook user, please do like the page and share it with your friends!

New Perspectives on the Derbyshire Lead Industry – the next session

Thanks to everyone who made the first lead industry seminar go so well last month.  I found it invigorating to encounter so much enthusiasm, experience and subject knowledge.  Much of the session was devoted to introductions and admin, but we took the opportunity to hear from Lien and Clare about the Mining the Archives project, which is facilitating conservation work on some of the lead-mining records we hold.

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The next session is on Friday the 13th of February 2015.  (Yes, I know.  Bring your own horse-shoe or rabbit’s foot and don’t pass under any ladders on the way here.)  The seminar will be divided into two discussions:

  • “Tithe and Enclosure Awards and Maps: Resolving problems in Lead Mining History” – discussion led by Steve Thompson
  • “Financial Accounting and the Derbyshire Lead Industry: role and impact” – discussion led by Matthew Pawelski

We had a diverse array of talents at the last seminar, some of whom had only very recently developed an interest in the history of the lead industry, and others for whom it has been a lifelong obsession.  I have reserved places for everyone who was there to come back in February; but there are other places available if you have anything to contribute to the conversation, however minor – you certainly don’t need to be the world’s authority on lead.  You can book by calling 01629 538347.

Breaking News! Family histories jumbled in crash

Another of the events we have been running in support of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge asks children to use old photographs, birth and marriage certificates, and other family history clues to help put the families’ stories back together following a small crash in which everything gets jumbled. These are some of the photographs from Long Eaton and Eckington where the children have designed suitcases for the families to showcase the ancestral history.

The session uses reproductions of original documents held at Derbyshire Record Office, and we hope that the families who come along will be going home to make their own family history suitcase. Instructions for making a suitcase can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/mister-maker/makes/mister-maker-boxsuitcase/

If you do make your own family history suitcase, please send us pictures to Record.Office@derbyshire.gov.uk

My Melbourne: a century of my village

Last Wednesday I visited Melbourne Library and worked with some very knowledgeable local families to create pop-up theatre’s showing how the village had changed over the last hundred years or so. Here are the wonderful creations

I would especially like to thank Picture the Past who provided the photographs for the children to use during the event. The photographs we used and over 100,000 others for Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire can be seen on their website at www.picturethepast.org.uk

More photos from this year’s Wingfield Manor Reading Challenge events

Since my last post, I have been to the libraries at Newbold, Creswell, Melbourne, Long Eaton, Dronfield and Eckington, and as at Glossop and New Mills at the beginning of the month, all th children have come up with some fantastic models of Wingfield Manor (some to fit this year’s Creepy House theme). Here are the photos from Newbold, Creswell and Dronfield where we made models of Wingfield Manor. Photos of family history suitcases and Melbourne pop-theatres to follow soon

Still to come this week and next – Chesterfield, Bolsover, Alfreton and Ilkeston. If you would like to come, please contact the relevant library (see http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/leisure/libraries/find_your_local_library/default.asp)