Fake news is not new!! Beware of history as told by victors and survivors.
Ten budding historians from Stoke Lacy and the surrounding area were treated to an innovative introduction to archival research by an enthusiastic team led by Dr. Kate Lack in the Bromyard and District Local History Society's well-equipped centre.
The day was divided into 2 parts. The morning session highlighted some of the pitfalls in identifying truth from wishful thinking. Kate explained that for any researcher it is important to bear in mind the provenance of any source you use in your research, who wrote it, and why, who was the intended audience? The answers to these questions can help decide how reliable they are as an historical resource. Many of the records which survive are legal documents like wills and deeds and these, by definition, only represent the history of land owners and relatively wealthy.
In the afternoon the delegates were given an opportunity to understand the process of research through half a dozen practical exercises using the equipment and documents available in the centre. To study land ownership and use we looked at the tithe map of Stoke Lacy from the mid nineteenth century, this was exceptionally detailed, showing field names, the crops growing in the fields and a record of the land ownership of the time, a fascinating.
Taking us back to the fourteenth century we were shown how study of a copy of Bishop John Trellik of Hereford’s Register of parish clergy covering the period 1344-1361, we saw that there was a significant turnover of priests during the year 1349 , when the plague was prevalent in the area, it showed that 56 priests died in 1349 compared to 10 each of the years 1346 and 1352.
We were also able to examine more detailed history of individuals through census records, as an example we looked at the 1901, where at the Rectory in Stoke Lacy lived the Morgan family and their extensive household of servants including the governess Andalusia Codrington, a 32 year-old, single lady who was born in Gibraltar. From the online records we were able to trace her back to the 1891 census where she was living in Walcot, Bath with her mother and listed as an ‘art student’.
Other fascinating insights into the Stoke Lacy area were discovered by examining copies of the Bromyard News, a forerunner of the Bromyard Info magazine, but published weekly through the late 19th century and beyond and giving colourful and sometimes graphic descriptions of such diverse subjects as flower shows, fetes and Christmas concerts as well as farm accidents and court cases, house breaking by little boys and motoring offences committed by one H.F.S. Morgan in 1903.
The training day was an excellent introduction to the resources available at the Historical Society whether you want to study your own family history, local history or matters of more national significance. Membership of the society is £18 per year with access at the centre to their significant resources as well as online records such as Ancestry.com, an annual individual subscription being more than £70. At the Bromyard History Society, you also have access to their considerable human expertise which is significant in helping the amateur steer through the pitfalls of research.