Sep 152013
 

There are many reasons why someone would undertake a one-place study. For some, the catalyst is wanting to understand who lived in your house or street. For others, it is about investigating migration from one place to another, or perhaps a way of finding a connection with your ancestry. Whatever the reasons, the fibre of a one-place study is about getting down to the details of time, place and people, and fleshing them out.

I recently delivered a presentation on identity and explained that I am half Italian - actually Sicilian, but let’s not split hairs - although born in England. The English way of life featured very heavily in my upbringing and yet I feel a connection t0 an identity, culture and way of life that was almost alien to me. When surrounded by a group of Italians I feel very English and when surrounded by a group from my homeland discussing Italian matters, I feel very Italian. The reasons I cannot explain. After the jokes on the mafia, olive oil and tomatoes had passed, the discussion on identity turned to the concept of connection.

Italian Procession, London July 2004, and showing the Sutera attendees Copyright - Julie Goucher July 2004

Italian Procession, London July 2004, and showing the Sutera attendees
Copyright - Julie Goucher July 2004

There does not need to be a connection in a physical sense, but sometimes, as any historian or family historian will tell you, there is an urge, a focus on seeking to answer WHY? Of course, once you start that question and answer game, you are undoubtedly going to be hooked. If that is you, well you are among pretty good company.

I host three one-place studies, each of them different; one is a rural parish in Surrey, another a road and the last a commune, which is a fancy word for village in Sicily. Each of them different, but to me they all have a link which happens to be my personal ancestry. That is not always the case.

Over the last twenty five years, I have explored other aspects of local history, for different reasons. I have explored Devonians, in particular those who lived in the town where I now live and their migratory patterns to Newfoundland.  I have explored the migration of a family from Devon who were papermakers, following a hunch that the same family, albeit several generations apart, had a papermaking business in Hampshire.

Understanding local history is important, not just to our identity, but to the generations of people who went before us, regardless of whether we are related to them or not. Whatever our reasons for starting the journey of questions, followed by the series of answers, followed by yet more questions, it will potentially lead to a mass of data and before you know it you have a one-place study.

Within that study there is no right or wrong way to extrapolate data. There is no particular need to look at family groups, or anything else for that matter. The only thing is that you seek to discover data about your study area(s) wherever that may be and by whatever means possible.

As I said before, you are in pretty good company!

Julie Goucher

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