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The office is an old Victorian School House, quite appropriate for the collection of so many historical documents.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.