A great many genealogists have agricultural labourers in their families; and the same can be said of those with a One-Name study. The focus is not going to be on the individuals necessarily, but opportunities to research the employment of the labourers and their methods of working. You might be researching the Farms themselves or just wanting to add context to the lives of our ancestors and their peers.
The British Agricultural History Society has a very informative website and if you look under the menu of search and then scroll to the bottom to find rural museums you are presented with a list of venues to visit with a link to their websites. The option of searching for other societies also provides more links, including one site that is about carrots!
I am from the south east of England as were the majority of my maternal family going back generations. One such venue, linked from the venue’s list above, was Gilbert White’s House and Gardens at Selbourne which is relatively close to the villages on the Surrey and Hampshire border where my Harris, Holt, Elstone, Budd and Bridger families lived, some of whom worked and owned a paper mill and did not work the land.
(As I was writing this post I noticed that Gilbert’s wife had Holt as her maiden name, so that is now added to my to do list!).
Gilbert White is also well known for his book, The Natural History of Selbourne which was published in 1798. The copy shown here is with the most recent cover by Penguin, my copy is around 30 years old and has a different cover. The book itself though can be read and downloaded online from HERE, free of charge.
The Museum of English Rural Life which is part of the University of Reading is also an interesting place to visit in the physical sense but to explore online too with the search and browse feature of the collection. There is also material on the Women’s Land Army from the Second World War which can be located here.
I was educated in the south east of England and one venue that was a frequent destination for school trips was an open museum. Originally it was known as Singleton open air museum, though now it is known as Weald and Downland Museum. I had not been back for years, though we organised a visit about five years or so ago. The reason for the visit was to see the watermill in particular.
The watermill was originally located at Lurgashall in Sussex, which was the very place my great, great Grandmother, Mary Elstone, nee Denyer (1838-1913) was born and lived in. She would have, without a doubt, seen this exact mill in operation. To stand in front of something that she would have seen in operation as she went about her activities in the village was something very special and I was very glad to have made the journey. The museum has a library and the catalogue can be searched HERE and you can also see the museum magazines online.
The museum has a Farming and Livestock section on their website, so it is possible to see a glimpse of what farm work was like in the time of our ancestors. If you would like to see a map of the museum, you can do so here and the watermill is located at C9
There are lots of opportunities to undertake specialised studies – farms, places and even perhaps water mills! By working on a specialised study, even in the short term, means we can explore the history and context of the places, farm, work etc of our ancestors, thereby adding some flesh to the bones of our people.
Taking part in the A-Z Challenge for 2020