Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Changing Times

Have not written for a while as there have been other things that needed doing. A couple of Saturdays ago we went to a family wedding. It was a happy day with the bride especially radiant and we all had a good time catching up with what had been happening to family members who we had not seen for several years - as seems to be the way of weddings.

The ceremony - as is becoming increasingly common (and popular) - was not held at a church or at a Register Office, but at one of the growing number of fashionable locations newly licenced for weddings - in this case, a hotel.

As I watched the ceremony and the signing of the register, naturally my mind turned to the implications of all these trends to the family historian of the future.

Today, most family history research requires us to have a good grasp of "location" - there is a continuous need to know "where" so that we can track our ancestors in the available records, many of which are tied to the Parish where they lived. While that is often a tremendous advantage, if they move - or if they came from elsewhere - it can become difficult to track the move with confidence. That's particularly the case if the move involves a change of County - mainly because of the way our historical records were made originally and are stored today. While it is certainly the case that the more global search facilities that have emerged over the last five year or so have alleviated the problem greatly, on the fringes, it remains a problem.

Things have changed dramatically during my lifetime. When, as a teenager I sat in the pews of the Beeston Parish Church and listened to the calling of Banns, it was pretty rare for one of the parties to be not "of this Parish" but 20-30 years later, with much greater individual mobility, the opposite usually applied. Most married someone from outside the Parish. The Vicar even had his little joke, complaining that they were all "away matches" this week.

Now, however much the changes are popular and in tune with modern thinking, more often than not, the old norms do not apply - we can no longer expect to find the wedding taking place in the bride's local Parish church - which would have traditionally been the first place to look - and might be in any one of diverse locations, many of them hard to predict but just as likely as a place of worship or the Register Office. And the need for residence in the Parish is no longer a requirement - just notice given to the parties' local Registrar - and then the venue can be anywhere in the country.

It all seems a nightmare when we think of using our traditional methods, but actually it is unlikely to be a problem. Technology will undoubtedly make direct access instantly available, "location" will be irrelevant - if you know the names, they will be found, wherever. Of course, this will bring its own problems - all details will potentially be available to anyone which many will find unacceptable, and rules of access will probably need to be established.

One thing for sure though - family history research will far less interesting !

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Not to be Overlooked

Today's mail brought a reminder that local papers are an excellent source for details of families involved in war. Many families - those with young sons in particular - were, of course closely involved in that tragedy that was World War 1 and it was imperative, at the time, to try to boost morale on the home front and to give every support to the "gallant lads" - as they were usually (and rightly) described. As part of that support, interviews with parents with sons at the front - often with photographs - became a regular feature of local papers. These articles are of exceptional interest to family historians as they often give details that are not easily obtainable elsewhere.

In Beeston, the newspaper at the time of WW1 was the "Beeston & West Notts Gazette & Echo and Beeston Times & Observer", which can be found on microfilm at Beeston Library and there is a partial index on cards that can often be found to be of use.

The enquiry today came from a lady who had found an article, dated August 1917, covering the three serving sons of a Mrs Moore of Beeston. Each of the three was described but notes from the description of one of the eldest son serve to illustrate the detail that can be available:

"Cpl William (Billy) Moore awarded Military Medal. Civilian life a lace draughtsman and manager for Messrs Widdowson of Sandiacre. Attended Chilwell schools, Secretary Beeston Friendly Society, Beeston flower show, married 2 children of 36 Derby Street, Beeston - now a bombing instructor."

This information - along with the details of the other son, enable me to help the enquirer to the next step in her research. Of course, newspaper reports are notorious for inaccuracies and everything should be checked wherever possible - and in this case there were several unexpected twists before the family structure was uncovered. Nevertheless, this example certainly illustrates what an excellent resource this is to help bring our ancestors to life.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Lads' Club on the Move

Land acquisitions in Beeston town centre and the subsequent clearances for the new Tesco Store, mean that many of old landmarks are vanishing. Soon to go will be the Lads' Club building, home to the Boys' Brigade in Beeston (the 17th Nottingham Company - formed in 1909). The driving force behind the Club and the building - as the datestone shows, first built in 1913 and extended two years later - was Steven Hetley Pearson, the oldest son of Henry John Pearson - in turn, the oldest son of the Chilwell family of nurserymen, a partner in Foster & Pearson the horticultural builders and founder of Beeston Foundry. Of the £3000 cost of the original building, over half was donated by the Pearson family with Hetley contributing over £1000 personally.

Many of the Club's members were to serve in the First World War. By 1916, 126 present and former members had joined, some - including Pearson himself, were not to return.

For almost a century, the youth organisations that are based at that building have been a undoubted force for good in Beeston with generations of young people benefiting from their training. Now that they are soon to move to new premises on Nuart Road - on part of Roundhill School field - it is pleasing to know that the present name "The Pearson Centre for Young People" will continue. Pleasing also to have played a small part in the arrangements for the day by putting the organisers in touch with a member of the current generation of the Pearson family who will be welcomed as part of the official opening on February 2nd 2008.