R G Collingwood said that “History is not a matter of coming up with the right answers but of asking the right questions”. So here are some questions that a new OPSer might ask.

Where shall I study? Choosing the right place is important. It needs to be an easily defined area that interests you. It also helps if you have relatively easy access to the key records you will need. For more on this topic, see Alex Coles’ article on choosing a place.

When do I have time to do this? Be realistic. Give yourself short and long term goals. Some of our members commit to accomplishing a certain task each month and declare their intentions on our Forum. These tasks range from small filing jobs to mammoth research projects. Have a plan. Decide what you hope to accomplish this year, this month, today.

How do I do this? What are the techniques? Seek help from others, our Society members are very friendly and willing to share their ideas. There are plenty of suggestions on this website. Read a book such as Putting your Ancestors in their Place: a guide to One Place Studies. Watch our Hangouts-on-air and ask questions on our forum. We are all learning together and are happy to help.

Who will I study in my place? One-Place Studies are about the history of people within a place. Will you study all of the residents, or a sample of families? Although most OPSers plan on researching, or at least being aware of, all inhabitants, the feasibility of this may depend on the size of your place.

What am I going to focus on? You can’t do everything at once, so decide on a particular topic, record set or date span to begin with. You may decide to conduct an oral history project, to index a census return, to study the First World War or to investigate the history of a prominent local family, building or business. You may be joining in with our shared endeavour; this is a great way to get motivated and exchange ideas, problems and solutions. It doesn’t matter where you start; the important thing is to take the plunge.

Janet Few


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