A-Z Challenge 2020 – Specialised Studies A is for Agriculture and Farms

Specialised Studies

Created by Julie Goucher using wordclouds.com March 2020

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!).

Natural History of Selborne

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

About Julie Goucher

Genealogist, Author, Presenter, native Guildfordian, avid note taker and journal writer. Lover of Books, Stationery & History; Surnames, Butcher & Orlando One-Name Studies. Pharos Tutor for all One-Name Studies/surname courses as well as Researching Ancestors from Continental Europe.
This entry was posted in A-Z Challenge 2020 - Specialised Studies, Genealogy, One-Name Studies, One-Place Studies, Specialised Studies. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to A-Z Challenge 2020 – Specialised Studies A is for Agriculture and Farms

  1. Pingback: A-Z Challenge 2020 – Specialised Studies G is for Games and their History | Julie Goucher ~ Anglers Rest

  2. Pingback: This week’s crème de la crème — April 4, 2020 | Genealogy à la carte

  3. Dianne says:

    Interesting take!
    In 1879 the Agricultural Minister for Canada invited a group of delegates of tenant farmers in the UK to come to Canada to study our way of farming. They were sent to different places and were to each make a Report of what they learned, both back to the UK and to the Canadian government. Two delegates didn’t take the program seriously and were sent packing! It was deemed a success and repeated other years. I have also used Herd Books in my agricultural studies, even for the farm where an ancestor worked as labourer.


  4. Jil Ball says:

    We won’t be getting to the UK this year but will definitely visit in 2020. I’ll definitely add some of these sites to our itinerary.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. kristin says:

    Here in the USA I have used the 1880 and (I think 1850) Argricultural censuses to fill in information about my ancestors.


    • Hi Kristin, I hope you are well. There was a 1940’s farm census which available at The National Archives. The purpose was to see how much capacity we had to feed a country in a war situation, so it was more about the farm than the people, the people were exempt from service, though some did join up.


  6. BookerTalk says:

    I didn’t think about a theme of occupations when I did this challenge last year… good idea though I wonder what yiu will do for X…..


    • I never thought of occupations either. This year I have gone with specialised studies because there are a great many that have potential. Farms is quite a common one – I paid quite a bit for a postcard of the farm where my family farmed in Wanborough Surrey. The view on the card was exactly the same as today. Over the years I have gathered quite a bit of details about the farm etc.

      In terms of this series, the focus is on different opportunities for Specialised Studies – I have used some creative thinking for some letters!


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