We have reached the fifth of our interviews with members of the Society for One-Place Studies! After last week’s visit to Australia and our chat with Jennifer Jones (Axedale OPS), this week we return to England. Our guest is someone who has not one but two one-place studies, one well-established (Rillington) and the other quite new (Thorpe Bassett, adjacent to Rillington in North Yorkshire). Please welcome Pam Smith!
Let’s kick off in the usual way, with a fun or interesting fact about yourself.
I love brass band music – marching or seated! Childhood days spent with my paternal mining grandparents in South Yorkshire. Think ‘Brassed Off’ and the Grimethorpe Colliery Band. Also my maternal great grandfather was a band major in the army.
What got you interested in one-place studies – and what keeps you interested?
Professional genealogy took me to Rillington taking images of the community for overseas clients and I subsequently became hooked on the simplicity of the village and its history. To cut a long story short, I founded a local history group with three other residents and the voyage of discovery progressed further and faster as personal reminiscence and testimony filled in the gaps between the records.
When did you start your one-place studies?
Rillington commenced in 2004 and the latest is Thorpe Bassett in 2020 during the lockdown gap last summer.
As someone with lots of OPS experience, what advice would you give to those starting out now?
Don’t rush it. Consider what you want to get out of it first. Why did it develop where it did? Is it a population study including migration? A series of house histories? Or topics such education, poverty, religion, transport, trades? Or all of the above and more. Do one thing and do it well, remembering to record source citations for every event and fact so it is ready for when you publish your book!
Of all the different types of records you use for your one-place study, which are your favourites and why?
How long have you got?!
My preference is record linkage between several sets of records and here are four of my favourites:
- Hearth Tax returns and parish registers of baptism, marriage and burial to discover more about the social context of the place in the Restoration Period.
- Tithe Map and Apportionment Schedule and the 1841/1851 census – using these names and properties can be connected by where they lived in Victorian times.
- Valuation Office Survey 1910 and the 1911 census to link names to properties together with a description of the building in Edwardian times.
- The 1939 Register and the National Farm Survey 1941-43 are especially valuable for a rural study which contains many farms at the time of World War II.
All with as many maps and old postcards as you can muster.
What has been your favourite OPS discovery or ‘wow!’ moment?
There are so many so I’ll share the most recent! Discovering that Hugh de Menyll had joined the Crusades in 1276 after laying ‘violent hands’ on Robert de Okham, the first Rector of Rillington.
Name your go-to websites for one-place study research – or tell us about some brilliant online OPS resources which you think are overlooked
Background information is the first step.
- British History Online for primary and secondary sources
- GENUKI the go-to genealogy source which is being constantly updated
If you could go back in time and meet someone from your one-place study, who would it be and what would you talk about?
That would be Enos Piercy, tailor 1823-1905 – a much loved churchwarden (for 60 years!), sexton and organist for St. Andrews Church. The stories he would have told! He would have known everyone and everything and had a starring central role in village life.
A random question: What is your favourite animal?
Cats – their combined daft antics and independence mirror my own personality.
Which places – related to your OPS research or otherwise – are you most looking forward to visiting as Covid-related restrictions are lifted?
To get back to the archives! This year I’m studying the Diploma in Genealogy at the IHGS, Canterbury while focussing the portfolio element on my One-Place Study. The Borthwick Institute for Archives, the Special Collections Research Centre, Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds and East Riding Archives are on my list.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us Pam, and sharing insights from one-place studies old and new!
Photos supplied by Pam Smith.
Would you like to occupy the hotseat and take part in a future interview as a Society member? Let me know and I will send a set of questions winging its way to you by email.