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Beginning Your Family History

Part Seventeen: Local Collections

User Avatar Penelope Lovesy 20/11/2020 08:37:26

In just one working day last week I investigated online resources for researching the Second World War and Dorset for a student in Australia. I used maps, directories and census returns to establish who lived at a property between 1895 and 1901. I went back to the 1700s to find out more about a merchant from Poole involved with the Newfoundland trade and I used information sent in by a family historian to edit an entry on our First World War website. In these current times I had to find this information using online resources from my own home. 

Local History Collections in libraries, museums and community spaces can add so much to your family history. Local collections often contain unique resources and indexes and while you can find huge amounts of information online it is worth looking up the local collection in the locality for your family tree and sending in an enquiry.  Even if we don’t have access to our physical collections, we still have the knowledge and expertise to uncover resources for your research. I will take you through some examples of what is available using our collection at Poole History Centre.

You can often access local newspapers in your local history library or museum. In Poole History Centre we have access to newspapers from the 1700s-2000s on microfilm. These newspapers are a unique resource as the majority have not yet been digitised and added to popular newspaper subscription websites. 

Newspapers offer a fascinating glimpse of life in local communities through the ages.  Often, they are the only source of information where official records are lost or inadequate. A wealth of family history can be found in newspapers including birth marriage and death columns, obituaries, inquest reports, criminal cases, accidents and disasters and adverts for business. Newspapers can also be used to research local history by exploring places, maritime, trade, community events, social unrest and job adverts. If you’re reading the newspaper to add context to your family tree, you must remember that reporting may be biased or written to influence or undermine. With this in mind, it is possible to find out so much about the context of your ancestors’ life from their local newspaper.

Due to the chronological nature of newspapers they can be of little use if even an approximate date of an event is not known. To assist with this there is a searchable newspaper index, available for certain years, in Poole History Centre. 

Additionally, a volunteer has read our entire run of the Salisbury Journal and picked out all the Poole content. Some of it is loaded onto our website, for example this article about Creekmoor Mill, from 26th May 1755 http://www.poolehistory.org.uk/node/327549 which reads:

“Wednesday Night last the mills call’d Crickmore Mills belonging to Israel Dunford, junior, by some unknown accident took fire; which burnt with such fury, that they, with the dwelling house etc. were entirely consumed. The family very narrowly escaped being burnt in their beds. By this misfortune, nothing being insured, the unhappy sufferers are reduced, from a competency, to very great necessity.”

This article is brilliant for its language and context of the local area, but also would be a great find for any Dunford family historians. To view other excerpts from the Salisbury Journal on our website go to http://www.poolehistory.org.uk/home and type Salisbury Journal into the search box.

Furthermore, for the past 50 years, files of press cuttings have been maintained on hundreds of different subjects. A family historian looking for a local firm, building or person may find that we already have a press cuttings file. For example, if your ancestor worked for the local firm British Seagull you could find several articles about the company and their history.

Our local collection in Poole History Centre also contains unique indexes, put together by staff and volunteers, which can really help with your family history. We have added a number of these to our website, you can find our names index, criminal registers transcription, Poole people index, several church records, census and directory transcriptions and much more.   All of these can be invaluable finding tools for family historians. Have a look at some of the links to see more; http://www.poolehistory.org.uk/node/319495 , http://www.poolehistory.org.uk/node/329332 , http://www.poolehistory.org.uk/taxonomy/term/50/all?page=&keywords=skinner&termID=50&recordType=&recordInit= , http://www.poolehistory.org.uk/node/324946

If your family history is not local to Poole, it is worth emailing your local resource to find out how they can help. Local History Librarians and staff can access their unique resources and often add a great deal to your family tree, even if you cannot visit in person. 

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