Feb 082020

Hand-loom weaver at Helmshore Textile Museum

Reconstruction of a Lancashire cottage hand-loom weaver, Helmshore Textile Museum. (c) Janet Barrie and used with permission

The Society’s Shared Endeavour on employment in your place commenced last month (see under Projects in the Members section for details). I have started by having a look at the patterns of employment in the 1841 census for my place. As Springhill is so small (all of 7 houses in 1841) I have extended it a bit to the wider village.

The youngest children recorded as working were four boys of 8 and a girl of 9, all woollen piecers. This involved running between the looms joining together broken pieces of wool which had snapped as the looms stretched out. The oldest was a man aged 86, a minister. Excluding him, the eldest was a man aged 75 and three aged 70, all woollen weavers, and an Ag lab aged 70. The oldest woman working was a 65 year old schoolmistress and another 65 year old female servant.

In a rash moment on social media I said that there were no 'ag labs' in my place. For Springhill itself it is still true, but I was surprised to find 10 in the wider area as the pattern is very much that of small scale pastoral farming of very unpromising clay/boggy land. In this snapshot nearly a third of workers were woollen weavers and wool manufacturing accounted for over half of all the jobs held. For the current crop of weavers it is difficult to tell if these were industrialised or the remnants of the hand loom industry. I suspect the focus will change over time and fully expect woollen to be replaced by cotton weavers as the century progresses. Indeed one enumerator in a later census didn’t even bother to write it out fully, resorting to ‘PLWC’ or power loom weaver of cotton instead. There are a lot of PWLCs around here.

The most unusual occupation in 1841? Chair bottomer. Not a joiner, there were three of those as well. Surprised that ‘chair bottomer’ was a full time job.

What about your places? Anyone got any younger or older people in employment? Any unusual occupations?

Janet Barrie

Jan 072020

OK so it’s a bit late to call them ‘resolutions’ but this is the time of year when we take stock and have a think about what we are going to concentrate on over the next 12 months. Here are some suggestions, some of which I intend to adopt for my Springhill study.

1. Get organised
This is an ongoing challenge for me and having started so well in October by beginning to check and organise my resources catalogue the lure of the 1861 census proved to be too strong. So over the coming months I will finish this and use it to identify and complete things which were started then abandoned - a couple of half-transcribed wills for example. Alternatively you may wish to review your study strategy. Which resources have you researched and how thoroughly? Which ones still need to be done? Janet Few’s articles in the last two issues of our journal Destinations covering how she approached her new study from scratch serve as a good framework here.

2. Review how your study is presented.
Our treasurer, Alex, spent her holiday period reviewing her Wing website and giving it a whole new look - you can see the results of her efforts at https://wing-ops.org.uk. If you have a website, perhaps it is time to have a critical look at it and see if it can be improved or freshened up. If not, perhaps this is the time to start one. I have received information I wouldn’t otherwise have from visitors to my site. Alternatively you may want to consider producing a book, a heritage walk, an exhibit at a local history fair, a project for local schoolchildren, a Facebook group...

3. Get connected
A website is one way to do this of course but is limited in terms of interaction. Many OPSers use Facebook or Twitter, some more intrepid souls use Instagram or Pinterest. Whilst these may be more flexible in some ways, they receive less traffic than Facebook or Twitter and so you will have fewer chances to connect with others. Interacting with other OPSers in this way is a great way of sharing ideas, chat and corny jokes. If you are on social media, please join in the #OnePlaceWednesday chat on Twitter.

A second way to connect is through the Society’s annual Shared Endeavour. More details on this year’s project will be released to members shortly, but as a teaser you might just want to look if you have a census or two for your place available.

Don’t forget the value of personal contact either. The Society is planning to relaunch webinairs in the near future in which members can gather and chat online about an aspect of our studies. We are also planning a presence at THE Genealogy Show so pop by and say hi. Those of us attending other shows also arrange meet-ups from time to time. If you are going to a show why not check if any other members are going (via social media is probably easiest) and arrange to meet for coffee and chat?

4. Give back/pay forwards
Again there are a number of ways we can do this. Is there a relative newcomer to one-place studies who would appreciate a mentor? Is there a transcription project in which you could become involved? A local history or heritage group you can join? A museum or community project which welcomes volunteers? A random act of kindness for a fellow researcher?

5. Explore a new resource or record set
Your study is almost certainly not ‘finished’ - whose is? Is this the year in which you get to grips with a new record set which might shed light on your place? It might be worth exploring a few members’ websites (see the links in the Studies section of this site) then brainstorming potential new resources and see where they are available.

6. Visit an archive
Partly because not everything is online and partly because nothing can beat holding a document your study residents were involved in creating.

7. Research and record current events
This year’s current affairs is tomorrow’s history! The best chance to document changes and preserve the associated resources is now.

This is not exhaustive. What are other folks' goals for the next 12 months?

Janet Barrie

Dec 132019

I love source documents, with their immediacy and relevance. They were created for a specific purpose and their utility says a lot about the processes of daily life in our places.

Obviously a one-place study is looking at the history of our places. Whilst doing so, it is good too to keep an eye on the documents being produced as part of current events in our places. These become the primary sources for tomorrow’s history.

One example from my place recently is the range of documents associated with planning permission. Over the past 12 months or so there has been an application to build on the field across from Springhill Lane, formerly the paddock for the Springhill estate. This of course triggered the usual set of objections from the residents with the to-ing and fro-ing of correspondence, the engagement of consultants to write reports on this and that with counter-arguments from consultants coming from the other side and so on. All of which produces lots of lovely documents to peruse. Even better they are all freely available online, although sadly not copyright-free.

Together they give a good summary of the process:
• exactly where the proposed dwelling is to be built and what changes will be needed to facilitate this
• what materials will be used with their rationale. These give insight into the construction of other buildings in the area and an indication of their date of construction.
• the discussions regarding highways focus on the heritage of retaining two stone gateposts and repairing vaccary walling whilst undertaking any widening.
• a summary of the objections of the residents and others.

There are some surprises however:
• the document from the Land Registry used as a basis for the plans has one of the properties in the wrong place. What is even more surprising is that the Land Registry entry for the house in question is correct.
• the application refers to the lane being the front access to two houses and rear access to two more. In fact it is the front access to all four.
• there is a reference to police involvement which would make a juicy story in 20 years time but might not actually have occurred
• there is discrepancy between the two expert ecologists on the species of trees in the field

So even official documents can get it wrong and need to be crossed-checked.

These documents in turn refer to others. The ‘urban boundary’ makes an appearance (*check files* yes, got that one) as does the ‘conservation area’ (yes, got that one too) together with the ‘landscape report’ and ‘housing strategy’ amongst others. These help set the proposed changes in the wider context but also are primary documents in their own right, arising out of the need to define what should or not be conserved or built upon. So what questions and influences drove those decisions?

There was a series of major development in my place in the early 1930s. I would love to find the plans (houses were subdivided, outbuildings converted into dwellings etc) and highways impact reports (it coincided with a period of major road widening). Most of all I would love to know the grounds for objection by the current residents and how these were answered. I have spend many a happy hour in the library going through the Council minutes for the time which are models of brevity and raise more questions than they answer. Collecting these documents now lead to preservation of the arguments and form the basis for research and telling of the story in the future.

Janet Barrie

Nov 082019

In the UK the party political conference season is in September and this year it passed off with the usual mixture of hot air and bluster.

The Society's conference is usually in October or, as in this year, November. As in previous years the conference is related to our Shared Endeavour and the presentations will relate to our theme of Founding Families. They will share their experiences of researching the founding families in their places, some of the techniques used, and some of their findings.

I have attended all the previous conferences to date and found them to be both inspirational and challenging. Way back in 2014 when our Shared Endeavour was WW1, Kim Baldacchino shared a beautiful way of presenting data relating to some of the soldiers she has researched, arranging small images of resources inside a transparent laminate to group them in an unusual manner. I intend to 'borrow' that idea next time I have to do a poster display...

At other conferences Peter Cooper has demonstrated some of his findings from aligning maps to scale and matching grid references and relating these to on-the-ground findings and to LIDAR findings. LIDAR refers to the use of lasers to measure distances to reflective surfaces and hence to glimpse remains under the surface of a place. Peter has merged these to good effect and confirmed the presence of a disused track in his place of which there is no trace now visible on the ground. Peter demonstrated both high-tech web-based means of comparing his maps and a more feasible method for the technically challenged - collating them together in a book!

There have also been guest appearances from yours truly but the less said the better...seriously, I remain grateful both for the opportunity to discuss my study in the company of like-minded people and to receive friendly and constructive feedback from those more experienced than I am. Fancy sharing your findings in future years? Please get in touch - we don't bite.

Whilst face to face conferences are a great opportunity to meet and chat, in these days of busy lives and with an increasingly international based society, this year we are trying something different. Rather than meet at a physical location we will be meeting online, using the Legacy Family Tree Webinars platform, with real-time discussion of the presentations as (or, rather shortly after) they are delivered. So we will meet (virtually), chat (definitely), and be encouraged and inspired to look at new ways of approaching our studies.

The conference will be held on November 16th commencing at 3pm GMT. Links will be sent to members shortly beforehand, and you're welcome to join any or all of the sessions, including the AGM at 5.30pm. Grab a coffee, pull up a chair and join the fun!

Janet Barrie

Oct 172019

Amongst the resources on the website is the register of members’ studies. Whilst it is interesting to see where different studies are in progress (hello, fellow Lancashire researchers!) the real value to me lies in the links to members’ websites. This lets me click through to see how other members have approached organising both their studies and their websites. I’ve gained a lot of good ideas poking around these sites.

We often say there is no one way of approaching a one-place study and of course this is true. Our approach varies with time, money, proximity to our place, resources available, historical interests and a host of other things. However it could be argued that there are actually only two ways of approaching a one-place study.

1. The organised way
Whichever way a study is tackled, it is done in an organised and systematic manner. Resources are sourced logically, transcribed completely, stored and referenced systematically You know what you have done, what needs to be done and can locate a specific piece of data within a few seconds.

2. The random way
One could just stick the word ‘not’ in front of all the above. Resources are collected piecemeal, transcribed incompletely or inaccurately and you can never find anything when you need it. Half way down transcribing a will there dawn the sinking feeling that you have seen this one before. This is confirmed when you save the document and are met with ‘a file of this name already exists, do you want to replace it?’

A confession.

Whilst not as random as that, I have had to acknowledge that my approach has been rather closer to the second than I would like. There are a number of half-transcribed documents lying around and I’m sure I have a copy of that map. Somewhere.

So in order to sort out my study I’m going back to the beginning. This has two stages, running roughly in parallel:

1. The ‘what do I want to do’ stage. This involved the purchase of yet another notebook, or actually two. In the first I jot the random notes/references/ideas which come to me as part of the study. In the second I have a strategy. Mine is based on Janet Few’s “Putting your ancestors in their place” (if you have a study based in England and Wales I cannot recommend this too highly. No, she hasn’t paid me to say that.) Within that it may not matter where you start but start somewhere, study it systematically and document it.

2. The ‘what on earth have I already got’ stage which has involved indexing all my resources including provenance and formal references. Within this I have separated primary sources, generic secondary sources, pictures and reconstructions/recollections. I have started with paper documents, am moving onto computer files then, (dear Lord help me here) photographs.

After these stages I will be in a position to cross-reference strategy and reality.

Does all this matter? In a sense no. I’ve had great fun for the last 10 or so years and still have a logical and well organised study. In a sense yes, as doing it properly in the first place would save a lot of time now.

If you are just starting a study or feel that yours could do with a makeover then members can find a couple of very helpful articles in the current issue of Destinations in the Members Area of the website. First is Janet Few’s article on beginning a one-place study from scratch. The second is Alex Coles’ on conducting an OPS at a distance which is also useful for those who live more locally. Not yet a member? Join us and give them a read!

Janet Barrie