Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Laying the groundwork

The first years I spent researching my family history were spent cranking my way through microfilms hoping to find some nugget of information. The discovery of every little piece of data took a lot of time and energy. There were eureka moments that could be shared with the other searchers bent over their screens. Smiles and congratulations were exchanged before everyone bent back to their task. Unfortunately, those eureka moments were few and far between. It wasn’t until I started travelling to find out more that my research really started to take off.

There is nothing like an in-person visit to the place where your research families lived. There are often repositories of local information that aren’t available anywhere else. Who knows what interesting things you can find out about the family you are researching? Of equal, if not more, importance is scoping out those places where the family once lived. If you are lucky the actual building might still be standing. But chances are that progress has overtaken them. 


 Where the Hearts of Oak Pub used to be

When I finally got a chance to visit, I was disappointed to find that the pub on London’s Dock Street where my paternal grandparents had lived and worked was no longer there. But the trip to that area of the East End was not a loss. Now I could picture how close the pub was to St. Katherine’s Dock, handy for dockers after their shift or, in earlier times, those who were not chosen for a day’s work. It also gave me a better understanding of my Dad’s stories about being sent on errands to relatives on Chambers Street when he was a youngster. 


Looking down Dock Street towards Chambers Street 

These days it is possible to research a place online before you go. I found out some history of one of my target areas in Halifax. Unfortunately, parts of the street I am interested in have been redeveloped. The temptation is to skip checking out the area since so much has changed. But then I remember my visit to Dock Street in London. Who knows what information I will find out by checking out Clyde Street in Halifax?  

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