Dec 072018

I was reading Janet Few’s book, Barefoot on the Cobbles, on the train recently. It is a work of historical fiction based on true events which involved people from one of her study places (Bucks Mills, Devon) and adjacent places. It is interesting to read her descriptions of the way of life in a community very different from my place.

Her novel got me thinking though. I wonder if anyone else is studying a place which features in works of art of any nature?

Now Bucks Mills isn't a large place by all accounts but is larger than Springhill's 12 houses. Thinking over life in my place, I don’t think that the major landowner having his name taken in vain in an attempt to procure some rabbits is going to form the plot of a blockbuster. Neither is a novel based on the two nieces of the said landowner’s wife disputing the terms of her will all the way to the Chancery courts going to win the Man Booker prize, though it did lead to some very interesting Chancery documents and (praise be!) a map showing who lived were in 1898. This confirmed that there were indeed two different Cross Cottages within 100 yards of each other... great. Similarly is 'the bad character of Francis Pilling' in the 17th century worth more than a couple of hundred words (he left his wife in labour and moved in with another woman)? My place has its usual share of small town news - reports of inquests, drunken behaviour, failing to maintain highways and the like, but nothing earth shattering. They were mainly solid Churchmen or Godfearing Baptists with the odd Quaker thrown in.

Expanding to the wider community, I can't think of any nearby town or village which has featured in a novel. The murder of an elderly, allegedly cantankerous widow by a cross-dressing lesbian half a mile from here has been reassessed recently ("Odd Man Out" by Denise Beddows). Maggie "Bill" Allen was hanged in 1949 after a trial of 5 hours and a jury deliberation of just 15 minutes. She was one of the last women to hang in the UK.

Other than that, I’m struggling. For those who like smutty innuendo there is the "Rawtenstall Annual Fair" which takes an alternative take on 19th century fairground attractions. For those whose tastes are more spiritual then there is a hymn tune named after Waingate, the next village on the hillside.

Is anyone studying a place which feature in the arts? Alternatively, has anyone got any good stories of life in their place worth of a retelling?

("Rawtenstall Annual Fair" by Lee Nicholson is on YouTube for the interested)

Janet Barrie

Nov 162018

For those one-place studiers who have taken a DNA test (or encouraged others with ancestral links to your place to do so), checking out who amongst your matches has someone in their family tree from your place will be top of the to-do list. However not all DNA testing websites have the ability to combine your DNA test with family tree data and report back on that aspect. It's great to see that MyHeritage has now added that feature:

"Shared Ancestral Places refer to towns, countries, or U.S. states that appear in your family tree as well as in the family trees of your DNA Matches, where birth or death events of your ancestors (and those of your DNA Matches’ ancestors) took place...If you and a DNA Match have a Shared Ancestral Place, you will be armed with more information to investigate the match further. You may be able to determine which common ancestor you and your match share from whom you both inherited the same DNA segments."

This is really crucial information for one-place studiers! If you tested with MyHeritage, or have uploaded your test results from elsewhere to their website, make sure you also have uploaded your tree so you get the benefit of this new feature, and take a look to see if there are any happy surprises in your Shared Ancestral Places.

Alex Coles

Aug 102018

five birthday presents

It's (nearly) our birthday! On 1 September we'll be celebrating five years since the Society for One-Place Studies was launched. We wanted to mark the occasion by doing something a little bit special so there's going to be birthday presents - for everyone! Well, not quite everyone, but eight lucky members will win genealogical website subscriptions and books to help them with their one-place study endeavours. You are cordially invited to join us as a member - all paid-up members on 1 September are automatically in the draw, so if you've been thinking about joining, now would be a most excellent time.

Oh, and another thing you are cordially invited to - our conference on 26th and 27th October. There's a visit to the Black Country Living Museum on the Friday, followed by the body of the conference on the Saturday focusing on this year's theme of The Built Heritage Of Your Place. Join us and keynote speaker Gill Blanchard in Dudley, West Midlands - register now and bring a friend or two along too!

Alex Coles

Jul 152018

Today, an update from the Mapping4OPS project...

LIDAR stands for 'light detection and ranging', and uses lasers from above to measure distances to reflective surfaces (and hence heights). "DTM" shows the ground of the earth and nothing else; no houses, buildings or vegetation, whereas "DSM" shows features such as buildings and trees.

Example of LIDAR DSM

Example of LIDAR DSM

I have implemented these within M4OPS, our prototype mapping system for One-Place Studies, for my own study (Holywell-cum-Needingworth) and others. The DTM layer helped to confirm for me (among other things) the location of a suspected track that I had noticed on old maps.

If you want to see this on-line go to, and in the dropdown named “Base Layer: Category” select Lidar (be aware it can be a little slow to show). By default this shows the DTM layer and is overlaid by Open Street Map. You can change how much of each you see (opacity) using the blue slider.

Example of LIDAR DTM

Example of LIDAR DTM

Lidar data and maps are available for other countries, and I would be happy to add any layers that we can get reasonable access to.
If you would like your study to be implemented within M4OPS and see maps for your OPS conveniently overlaid with each other, contact

Peter Cooper

Apr 302018

Our members are participating in the A-Z Blogging Challenge for 2018 with the theme People of My Place. Today's entry is from Ruth Marler.

“ALIEN’S ROMANCE - Allowed To Marry While Waiting Trial”

That was the headline in the Manchester Evening News on 16 November 1914.

An engineer named Charles Ziemann, alleged to be a German, was accused of giving false particulars to the registration office. He was arrested on the Thursday, due to be married on the Friday, to a young woman at Porthleven, and under the circumstances, the police decided that the wedding should not be postponed. Accompanied by an officer, Charles “was allowed to motor to Porthleven where the wedding took place.”

Charles Fredrick Ziemann (Carl Friedrich Theo Ziemann) was born to a German father and Russian mother in Tiflis, (now Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia). In his early life Charles travelled to Munich, Germany to study engineering and later he worked on marine engine development with the company owned by Herr Diesel.

Porthleven, the most southerly harbour in England, had an internationally known boat-building reputation. When the Hudson Bay Company of Canada commissioned Kitto’s to build two boats they sent Charles Ziemann to oversee the building of the “Fort Churchill”and later the “Fort York”. Ziemann was sent to supervise the fitting of the Bollinger Marine Diesel Engines and then join the crews sailing the boats to their Hudson’s Bay destination.

In 1913 within hours of the newly-complete Fort Churchill starting her 3,000 mile journey, the topsail sheet came apart, fell over the side and the propellor picked it up so the crew had to beach the boat and repair the drive shaft before they could continue with this maiden voyage. The ship’s log records passing icebergs some of which were several miles in circumference. This voyage took place only a year after two Porthleven lads had been lost on the sinking Titanic when it was struck by a similar iceberg.

A “Press News Bulletin, Winnipeg, Saturday January 17 1914 proclaimed:

Charles Ziemann, Hudson’s Bay trader of London, England was in Winnipeg today having arrived from a 30 days’ trip through the ice and snow fields of the far north to reach this city from York Factory about 500 miles away. Mr Ziemann is leaving for London this afternoon. He had a camera with him on the trip and took some interesting snapshots. The picture of rugged health, Mr Ziemann has been following the business of visiting the outlying Hudson’s Bay trading posts in all parts of the world for practically all his life.” Accompanied by a native American guide with sleds and five Huskies, Charles had lived out in the snow, lying down at night amid a patch of fir trees when they could be found, and sometimes waking early in the morning to find two feet of snow on top of him. When he was interviewed he remarked “Tis a healthy life”.

After such an exciting early life, Ziemann appeared to settle down. He married his Porthlevener in November 1914 and, between 1915 and 1929, he and his wife produced 6 children with Ziemann becoming a British citizen in January 1920. However, he appeared in court in 1926, then on several other occasions and again in 1933 when the local newspaper described him as a “well-known Porthleven motor dealer”. His misdemeanour was selling a car, taking money to obtain insurance for his customer but failing to do so. Part of the defence put forward was that he “went to Porthleven in 1912, he was not well educated and was not perfectly at home with the English Language”. It was also mentioned that in 1932 he had been fined for driving a motor car without a reflecting mirror and in February 1933 for allowing a person without a licence (his son) to drive his car. He was fined a total of £9 10s and given two months to pay.

By 1934 matters were worse, Ziemann was charged with various motor offences including driving without insurance, driving whilst disqualified and stealing “two motor car clocks”. “Mr C J Cooke, for defendant, said that the facts surrounding the case were most distressing. Mrs Ziemann and the six children had been living under the most appallingly difficult conditions, and were now receiving help from the Public Assistance Committee. There was no doubt that Ziemann was suffering from locomotor ataxy which rendered him unfit to drive a motorcar and impaired the character of the patient. Eventually a committal order was made to run concurrently with his sentence and “the prison doctor would have an opportunity of enquiring into defendant’s mental state”.

In a rosier version of his life Charles is spoken of as “one of the first businessmen to bring a motorcar to Cornwall”. He is credited with fitting the first engines in some of the fishing boats and said to have been much in demand, due to his marine engineering knowledge.

Sadly in the 1939 register Ziemann is not with his family in Porthleven but in Bodmin Mental Hospital and by 1941 he was dead at the relatively young age of 55.

Charles Ziemann newspaper report