There is something very special accessing an archive of material whether that is a collection gathered by an individual, group, regional or national facility.
An archive is a link to the past. A past that our ancestors lived, played and worked in, regardless if you are researching your ancestry or not.
An archive is an opportunity to explore the bowels of an establishment, to absorb, delve, be curious in. An environment in which we can ask questions and hopefully identify items and documents that answer those questions.
Of course, once you are in an archive it is very easy to be distracted and head off into a tangent and explore other things. Personally I find that as I look at documents other questions or thoughts pop into my head that perhaps are not related to the quest I am exploring. I record those thoughts in a short mind map style note in my notebook, capturing the essence of the thought whilst keeping on the path of research.
|Puttenham Surrey – 2007|
There are some great archives in existence and not just the more established ones. There are local archives, that perhaps relate to a particular location. In those instances they are typically run by a team of volunteers. It was such an archive that got me involved with my One-Place Study of Puttenham. My own Puttenham archive is a constant work in progress and I am currently in the process of putting all the material on-line, either at the website or blog.
Here are a few examples of some other local archives. Firstly, this one from the English county of Surrey – Shere Museum. An early branch of my maternal family hailed from Shere, having hopped over the border from Sussex before meandering their way across this part of Surrey.
Where Shere Museum is run as a private entity, Guildford Museum is run by the Borough Council and I spent many a happy Saturday afternoon their in earlier years. Attached to the Museum was originally part of the Surrey Records Office in a rather dusty and dark basement. The room was called the Muniment Room and I spent many, many hours looking through the card indexes which usually meant that I called for a document or two from the archive store. Here I discovered lots about my family that came into Guildford from Shere. More recently, well within the last fifteen years, the Muniment has closed its doors, but the documents are now located in a newly built Surrey History Centre at Woking.
Some records are found at a more national level at The National Archives located at Kew. Records pertaining to Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom are houses in typically the capitals of those locations – Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast, but. there are many, many places that may house archives and material that could assist you in your research.
This post has featured Surrey, because that is where my maternal family hails from, but there is more than likely near your own location an archive of whatever description simply waiting for you to walk through its doors and experience and delve into the archives confined within the walls.
|Photo of the Bowring Collection at
Royal Albert Memorial Museum Exeter
June 2013 – J Goucher
Sometimes, there can be some really unexpected finds. Last June I visited the Museum in Exeter. I had always wanted to visit and simply enjoy the experience rather than visit with a particular task in mind. So there I was on a rather dismal day in June wandering around the Museum. I have a distant ancestor who was born and died in Exeter yet lived all over the world and had a fascinating life.
His name was Sir John Bowring. As I wandered round I gave a quick ponder to would I see anything mentioning Sir John? Well I did and that prompted me to delve a little deeper into what material was on offer and located at the Museum. I did write a blog post about the visit and you can read that here.