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

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