Serious research time

Goodwin, Mary, aged 74, died 24th January 1882, body taken by friends

Goodwin, Mary, aged 74, died 24th January 1882, body taken by friends

After saying yesterday that the response from the historical records centre should be received within 20 days, I did receive a prompt reply, advising me how to book a desk at the centre. A couple of emails later I had a place booked from 10am, and so set out this morning happy in the knowledge that by the end of the session I would at least know what I was facing, research-wise.

I found a parking space just down the road, paid for four hours, then wandered round the library for half an hour just looking – they have a substantial section of local history books for loan and for reference use, as well as the records.

Then I approached the desk, had my ID checked and explained what I was after. A librarian (I assume that’s what she was!) sorted me out with a computer and some microfilm to start with, having briefly shown me a  ringbinder that served as an index to the records. She also gave me a lanyard containing a swipe card to get into the search room, a desk number and a locker key, and some pink sheets that I could fill in to request other records.

It’s been many years since I last used microfilm, but a quick lesson later I was searching documents for sight of my inmates. The microfilm was threaded onto a machine that was linked to a computer for easy viewing – four buttons drive the film, fast forward and back and slow forward and back, but the slightest tap of the slow button could shoot on further than I wanted at first. It was also tough to read the handwriting, and zooming in on the image was no help as it just pixellated. Most of the books had been photographed with one landscape page per shot, but one of the books I tried to look at had been photographed as a double page spread, which in landscape orientation made for a much smaller image that proved more or less impossible to read. It also took me a while to realise that the microfilm contained several books, each one starting and ending with a title shot giving details of what it contained, e.g. Blean Union Workhouse Deaths 1866-1890. Linear searching, with no central index – how quaint!

After an hour or so on the microfilm, I decided it was time to venture into the search room itself, so I put everything except my papers, mechanical pencil and ipad (with bluetooth keyboard) in the assigned locker and used the swipe card to enter a large room with huge flat desks. The room itself had a glass wall and door dividing it from the main library, and was air-conditioned. I assume it was for the protection of the books, but I wasn’t complaining! There were a few other people in there, all looking very studious with laptops and huge tomes in front of them. A bookshelf lined one wall, another, smaller, bookshself contained the ringbinder indexes, and there were a couple more computers and microfilm viewers against other walls. A librarian sat at a desk by the door and she took my library card. I found my desk and the resource I’d asked for was brought to me – a big, heavy old ledger that the librarian arranged on a foam pad with wedge shapes to hold it open comfortably.

I found what I wanted in there with little trouble, and then wandered round to look at the books along one wall – these ranged from general history/reference books to things like lists of marriages.

With some more help I located the index to the records again, and by now the system was starting to make more sense. I carefully wrote down some of the references that I thought might be useful, and attempted to order one, using the pink cards on the desk. When it was brought over, however, I’d managed to order the microfilm again! I soon spotted my mistake, but by this time it was only half an hour before my parking ticket ran out, so I arranged to visit again next week, returned resources, collected my belongings and left.

One problem I found at first was that between requesting the records and receiving them I’d forgotten what each reference was for and so wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be looking for inside, so I’ll be more careful next time to take notes. I did find some useful information – it was strangely moving to find the names I’d researched handwritten in the records – but there’s definitely a lot more to find out, and I’m looking forward to next week, when I’ll be much more efficient right from the start. I’ve also gone back to the online index, and now that I’ve thought to look beyond the first five results (!) I see there is indeed a long list of the different resources available, alongside their finding number. What I’m not sure of is what happens if they’re available on microfilm – on the paper copy of the index in the library there is a pink dot and a number written next to those available on microfilm, but the online version seems to carry no reference to this. (Note to self: the number only refers to the entries with pink dots – don’t look at ordinary entries and then look up the page for the nearest number!)

Goodwin, Edward, aged 77, died 28th May 1844, buried in Blean.

Goodwin, Edward, aged 77, died 28th May 1844, buried in Blean.

What did I find out? The death register for the workhouse confirmed that Mary Goodwin did indeed die in the workhouse, and gave the date as Jan 24th 1882. Under Burial, the entry says “body taken by friends.” Two years later, on May 28th 1884, Edward Goodwin also died, and he was buried in Blean.

I also found out from the Lunatic Asylum records that John Hearnden was admitted there on 7th January 1882, and was listed as “removed” on 28th August 1895, with no indication of where he was removed to. I found it interesting that in my notes I referred to the place as St A’s (St Augustine’s), finding it very difficult to use the words “lunatic asylum”, but I suppose I should get used to referring to it as such. Again, there are more records to be searched, so my research on John Hearnden will continue.

I didn’t find any trace of the Newing family, but I wasn’t really looking at the right records for them this time round, and I think I’ll also try to add one more inmate or group of inmates to the research list for next week’s visit. Right now I need to add the screenshots I took of the death entries to the Goodwin tree on – and then get on with some other outstanding work.


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1 Comment

  1. I really need to get back into doing my family tree there is so much more I want to know but I think I need to find a more organised approach to doing it some how and a way that it becomes more than just a list of dates and places the further I go back


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