Sunday, 24 November 2013

Learning how to research

The Heritage Lottery Funded project, Lives Behind the Stones, is moving on a pace. [I've explained more about the project here.] Last week we went to the Leicestershire and Rutland Records Office for our first training session. We are hoping to research some of the names on the stones in the oldest part of Leicester's Jewish Cemetery. We know that we will draw complete blanks with some of them but we are hoping to at least find out something of interest, though first of all we have to learn how to find our way around the myriad of resources in the Records Office.
The Leicestershire and Rutland Records Office
The office is an old Victorian School House, quite appropriate for the collection of so many historical documents. Jenny Moran, the Senior Archivist, gave us an introduction followed by a guided tour. The place is packed from floor to ceiling with scrolls, maps, photographs, letters, wills, not to mention shelf after shelf of books packed with names, addresses, jobs, the list is endless. It was a fascinating experience. We were even taken into the private area, where documents are stored at about 14 degrees to prevent damage, and the vast shelves are moved to and fro by means of a hand-controlled wheel.
Jenny Moran showing us one of many sets of shelving packed with documents
 I'm sure that Agatha Christie has used just such a setting for one of her mystery murders.
As Jenny said, there's always someone who can't resist turning the wheel to move the shelf
Jenny had laid out a number of fascinating documents for us to browse including the Synagogue's marriage register dating back to the 19th Century and a number of newspapers from wartime Leicester, a time when a lot of London Jews arrived in Leicester to escape the bombing.


For the second part of the morning we considered a selection of photographs of possible headstones for research and our brave volunteers launched enthusiastically into their work. 

Will they find out about exciting life stories and produce evidence of what life was like in early 20th Century Leicester? 

We hope so. Watch this space! 

Apologies if I have not visited your blog or been on Twitter this week. A young and very dear friend died suddenly on Monday and it has been a particularly difficult time.

16 comments:

  1. Hi Ros .. your heritage research and the learning you'll glean through this project is fascinating ..

    However - I am sorry about your very close friend - sudden deaths are always so sad and challenging for all to deal with - my thoughts to the family and to you - Hilary

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  2. Ros, i'm so sorry to hear about your young friend. I can well imagine how hard it's been for you. Your project here sounds increasingly fascinating, and now I'm reading your book, even more so. Thank you again for sending it. I read a page a night and love the anecdotes and memories. It brings things very much to life as I'm sure what you are doing now will as well.

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    1. I'm so pleased you're enjoying my book, Val :-)

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    2. I really love it and it's one that stays by my bed and doesn't get put away!

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  3. As I was born in Rutland that archive is a place I'd like to visit.

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    1. You really must, Bob. Let me know and I'll meet you there for a coffee :-)

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  4. Isn't it exciting - finding this stuff.

    When I was 17, and doing a project on monasteries I went to Southwark Cathedral, to find stuff out, and the librarian took me into their library and let me read an original copy of Mayhew's Life and Labour of the London Poor - the paper thin and brown, smelling old and dusty - and it was such a privilege. I learned stuff, of course, but the most wonderful thing - at that age - was just being with that book and allowed to touch it! So I can begin to imagine how thrilled you all are to be let loose in a records office!

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    1. Historical documents are magical, aren't they, Jo!

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  5. Pottering about in old documents sounds right up my street!! what amazing things await you -- stories...people and places. Wishing you and your team a fascinating journey...with many unexpected diversions and discoveries.

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    1. Thanks, Carol, I'm particularly looking forward to the diversions and discoveries.

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  6. sorry about your loss. That's difficult.

    Glad though your project is moving along. That historical records place looks intriguing. Thanks for keeping us updated - this is fascinating

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    1. Do you not have Records Offices in the US, Joanne?

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  7. Such treasure houses are yet another reason I wish I had never left the UK!

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