Apr 282017

Welcome to the world of one-place studies! Twenty-six of our members are sharing something in their particular place for this year's A-Z Blogging Challenge. Janet Few shares a Christmas tale blending the old and new.

Apologies to anyone who is offended by the use of the abbreviated form of Christmas but X is always a tricky one. I thought I would use it as an opportunity to tell you about our one-place Christmas Tree. Back in October, it was decided that our village should stage a Christmas tree competition and exhibition in the local church during the Christmas season. Each club, organisation and institution in the village was invited to display a small tree that was to be decorated to reflect their activities. The bell-ringers were clearly on to a winner here as they could cover their tree in bells. Trying to think of a history group theme was much harder. We debated using vintage ornaments but the value of these was a deterrent, as they had to be left unattended in the church.

In the end, we decided to make our own decorations. We set small photographs of former residents of the parish in seasonal borders, printed these out and laminated them. We wanted viewers to be able to identify the people in the photos and were originally going to put their names on the reverse side of the picture. We did feel that this might encourage people to tug at the decorations with disastrous results, so in the end we put Christmassy pictures on the reverse of the photographs and provided a key, which was laid by the pot. Our ‘tree’ was to be twigs to give us ample hanging room and we decided to fill a large pot with sand to anchor the branches. There was a slight hitch when a sharp frost rendered the pile of damp sand that we were going to use frozen solid but the earth that we substituted worked well.

We were very pleased with the finished tree and honoured to be voted in to joint first place by those who came to look at the trees. This is a wonderful way of gently exposing the wider community to their history and heritage; please feel free to use our idea if you get the opportunity. Quite what we can come up with if there is another competition next year I don’t know.

Apr 272017

Welcome to the world of one-place studies! Twenty-six of our members are sharing something in their particular place for this year's A-Z Blogging Challenge. Vivienne Dunstan takes us to Melrose in Roxburghshire, Scotland.

Part of Lauderdale map in "Blaeu Atlas of Scotland” (1654). Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

I’m lucky for my one-place study Melrose that the local court records in the mid and late 17th century survive, giving an unusually detailed insight into life in the community then, recording the everyday affairs of thousands of locals over several decades.

One of the principal people associated with the Melrose court at this time was its long-term clerk, Thomas Wilkieson, clerk from at least 1663, who was paid to record court proceedings and other legal matters for locals. In 1682 control of the court changed, and new court officials, including a new clerk, were appointed. Thomas refused to hand over the court's registers, and continued to act as clerk, leading the new clerk to complain that Thomas was making his job unprofitable. Thomas was also one of a group of old Melrose court officials who tried to block the changes, even going so far as to change the locks on the court building, and refusing to hand over the keys!

Later Thomas became clerk of the court again, and he was still alive in 1694 when the hearth tax was recorded for Melrose, appearing as a taxpayer in the list as "Tho: Wilkisone Clark”, living in Melrose town. He must have been quite some age by then. From the parish registers we know that he married Margaret Ellies in 1663, and had at least 6 children, 4 sons and 2 daughters, all baptised between 1664 and 1682. He may also have been an ancestor of Charles Wilkieson, a solicitor in 18th century Melrose.

Thomas is one of the most characterful people appearing in the Melrose court records, even among thousands of names recorded over just a few decades, and is definitely one of those people in my place in the past that I so wish I could have met.

Apr 262017

Welcome to the world of one-place studies! Twenty-six of our members are sharing something in their particular place for this year's A-Z Blogging Challenge. It's the turn of Erin Klein who shares with us views of evolution and devolution of places in her place.

The southwestern United States is home to many defunct boomtowns (also known as ghost towns) that sprang up overnight and just as quickly disappeared. In Nevada, the towns were centered on mining activity taking place in the area and populations rose and fell with the success and demise of the mines and mills. In my place of Nye County, Nevada there were many such boomtowns.

Few buildings of the boomtown era remain intact. Lumber was scarce in many areas and residents literally 'moved house' when they relocated to the next boomtown. The forces of nature and vandalism have taken their toll on the rest of the surviving buildings. I am always on the lookout for old photographs and postcards as well as current photographs of any remaining trace of the space they once occupied on the land.

Belmont, Nevada, circa 1871.
Photo in public domain

Belmont, Nevada, 2006
Photo by Don Barrett – Own Work, CC BY-NC/ND 2.0

Mill in Belmont, Nevada, circa 1871
Photo in public domain

Mill in Belmont, Nevada, circa 1871
Photo in public domain

One of the remaining smelter stacks. Belmont, Nevada 2005
Photo by QKC – Own Work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Cook Bank, Rhyolite, Nevada, 1908
Photo in public domain

Cook Bank, 101 years later
Photo by Tahoenathan – Own Work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Apr 252017

Welcome to the world of one-place studies! Twenty-six of our members are sharing something in their particular place for this year's A-Z Blogging Challenge. Today Suzie Morley of the Debenham one-place study has a reminder that your favourite one-place studier will likely have some treasures you may not know about - unless you ask!

What is "Unpublished Research"? Until the birth of the Internet, unpublished research might have consisted of a brown paper envelope full of someone's jottings about their Place, their Name or their Family. This envelope might be deposited at the Society of Genealogists, at a Family History Society or at a Record Office. It was, generally, obvious that it was unpublished. It was also fairly obvious that such "jottings" should be viewed with a certain amount of caution and should be thoroughly investigated and researched, before being incorporated into your own "jottings".

These days this unpublished work is more often to be found via a search engine or by entering your Place Name into a well-known genealogy supplier's web site. These days we are all publishers! Some of us have websites, some have blogs, or Facebook, or Twitter. Some go and talk to schools, some do presentations. Whilst most of us use perhaps one or two of these modes to reach out to other people – some people use all of them! Is there any such thing now as "Unpublished Research"? and how can we keep our own research "pure", whilst still engaging with others?

How have you solved these dilemmas? Let me have feedback in the comments on whether you think this could possibly be the topic of a future Hangout or a Destinations article.

Apr 242017

Welcome to the world of one-place studies! Twenty-six of our members are sharing something in their particular place for this year's A-Z Blogging Challenge. Today it's time for some local ingenuity Down Under as reported by Janice Cooper.

The Tumbling Tommy was a significant object for European settlement history in my place, the Alpha-Jericho area in central-western Queensland, to provide sufficient water supplies for the pastoralists’ cattle and sheep, and for town dwellers. It was a ‘bottomless kind’ of scoop, invented by Sir Samuel McCaughey, a pastoralist in New South Wales.

First mentioned in local newspapers in 1882 and being offered for local sale, the scoop was described in action:

This tank is being made with the McCandrey [sic] scoops, of which four are at work. They are drawn each by two horses, and driven by one man, who from his seat directs all the movements of the gear. The machines look something like buckboard buggies. They are driven quickly, scoop up ¾-yard of earth in one second, carry it to the embankments, and discharge it – the horses being kept moving all the time. These scoops are evidently a great improvement upon the ordinary style, and must soon supersede the other kinds. [Western Champion, 29 September 1882.]

A 'tank' is a shallow excavation to hold water for sheep and cattle, in contrast to the dams dug deeper and with steeper banks.

Excavating tanks and dams was important for the early pastoralists in this semi-arid region with highly variable rainfall and high evaporation rates. Across the district, the rainfall averages range from 524 millimetres to 565 millimetres annually. From 1886, when underground water was first pumped from a nearby bore (Back Creek), sub-artesian water supplemented the limited surface supply of water available in the area.

The Surbiton dam

The McCaughey scoop was just one of the varieties used and operated in a variety of ways. On Surbiton Station, a large team of draft horses dragged a scoop to construct a dam in the late 1880s. [State Library of Queensland, Negative 170665]

However Tumbling Tommies became sufficiently distinct among scoops to warrant separate entries in both the Queensland Pastoral Employers’ Association’s Scale of wages (1891) and Queensland Labourers Union’s Regulations for minimum rates (1892). The pastoralists recommended paying 30/- per week, including Rations to Scoop Drivers (McCaughey and Other Scoops) while the labourers sought a wage of 40/- per week, plus board and accommodation for drivers of Tumbling Tommies/McCaughey’s Scoops. [Western Champion, 28 July 1891, 29 December 1891]

The McCaughey scoop continued to be used into the twentieth century, and was important in supplying water for town residents as shown in a grainy photograph illustrating its use in the construction of a dam in 1910 for the residents of Jericho. [‘Saltbush’, The Queenslander, 9 January 1911.] The Tumbling Tommy was a piece of equipment invented to serve a rural need and it proved to be successful in its time.

The Tumbling Tommy