Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - Jonathan Scott

At Northamp­ton­shire’s county record of­fice there are var­i­ous projects afoot, all seek­ing to im­prove ac­cess to his­tor­i­cal sources. At the time of our last visit to the re­gion in 2010, the record of­fice’s dig­i­tal cat­a­logues were only avail­able through The Na­tional Ar­chives’ old Ac­cess to Ar­chives site, but the past 12 months has seen the launch of a new ded­i­cated on­line cat­a­logue at nro.adlib­host­­ple.

Ar­chiv­ist Daniel Wil­liams says: “Cus­tomers are now able to search more than 660 col­lec­tions (over 100,220 items) held here at Northamp­ton­shire Ar­chives, and it is some­thing we add to ev­ery day. In fact, since Septem­ber 2014, the Col­lec­tions Team has added more than 4,690 items to Adlib, and 160 new col­lec­tions.”

There’s plenty more to do, but Daniel says they have an on­go­ing tar­get to add all new ac­ces­sions to the cat­a­logue within 10 work­ing days of re­ceiv­ing them. Just to give a taste of the kind of new ma­te­rial you might ex­pect to fifind, ac­ces­sions that ar­rived in 2014 in­cluded Northamp­ton­shire County Cricket Club minute books (back to 1882); Mid­dle­ton Cheney Pri­mary Academy ad­mis­sions reg­is­ters (from 1862); an oral his­tory col­lec­tion com­piled by the Northamp­ton­shire Black His­tory As­so­ci­a­tion; Blakesley CE Pri­mary School ad­mis­sion reg­is­ters (1877-1912); plus records of Haynes and Cann, a Northamp­ton-based boot com­pany that spe­cialised in pro­duc­ing boots for the mil­i­tary.

The county is par­tic­u­larly as­so­ci­ated with the boot and shoe trade, which be­came the dom­i­nant busi­ness in Northamp­ton in the early 19th cen­tury and then spread to towns in the east such as Ket­ter­ing, Welling­bor­ough and Rush­den. The record of­fice holds ma­te­rial from more than 50 boot and shoe firms, in­clud­ing doc­u­ments re­lat­ing to per­son­nel and cus­tomers. There is also an im­por­tant footwear col­lec­tion pre­served at the Cen­tral Mu­seum in Northamp­ton, along­side the Na­tional Shoe­mak­ers In­dex.

The mu­seum also holds the reg­i­men­tal ar­chive of the Northamp­ton­shire Reg­i­ment, and Daniel says that the county’s re­searchers are es­pe­cially for­tu­nate in terms of the quan­tity of mil­i­tary ser­vice records that have sur­vived. “This ranges from El­iz­a­bethan musters to one of the fullest sets of 18th-cen­tury mili­tia bal­lot lists in the coun­try,” he says. “The mili­tia pa­pers in par­tic­u­lar are ap­prox­i­mate to a census of the male pop­u­la­tion in the se­cond half of the 18th cen­tury.”

The record of­fice also looks af­ter com­pre­hen­sive lists of Vic­to­rian ri­fle vol­un­teers, plus an ex­cep­tion­ally rare and ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of First World War Mil­i­tary Ex­emp­tion Tri­bunal

The record of­fice holds ma­te­rial from more than 50 boot and shoe firms

pa­pers, which they are in the process of in­dex­ing.

Rare WW1 doc­u­ments

“Th­ese are rare sur­vivors that re­veal an im­por­tant as­pect of life dur­ing the First World War, which has lim­ited archival ev­i­dence na­tion­ally,” Daniel says. “1916 saw the in­tro­duc­tion of con­scrip­tion into this county for the first time and the pa­pers re­late to those mak­ing ap­peals against be­ing con­scripted. Far from be­ing con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tors, th­ese were or­di­nary men who wor­ried about not be­ing able to sup­port their fam­i­lies while away, small busi­nesses ap­peal­ing to have the work­force kept or else they would go bust, or boot and shoe com­pa­nies try­ing to meet the

or­ders de­manded from the Army, at the same time as the Army was tak­ing away their work­forces. It’s a real in­sight into how war reached into ev­ery as­pect of ev­ery­one’s lives, which is why they are such a good source for fam­ily his­tory. We are work­ing to fin­ish off this pro­ject and hope­fully we will be mak­ing some an­nounce­ments in the new year.”

Ex­cit­ing times ahead

The record of­fice has ma­te­rial from nearly 380 parishes stretch­ing back, in some cases, to the 1530s. Most ex­cit­ingly, the reg­is­ters them­selves have been digi­tised and are now be­ing in­dexed by Ances­try, with an ex­pected launch date of Jan­uary 2016. Find­my­ has also fin­ished scan­ning school ad­mis­sion reg­is­ters and log books from Northamp­ton­shire, and th­ese are await­ing launch, too.

In the mean­time, the record of­fice, again work­ing with vol­un­teers, is seek­ing to open up lesser-known parish col­lec­tions. “Parishes have been in­volved in many dif­fer­ent aspects of Northamp­ton­shire life, and of­fer some fas­ci­nat­ing in­sights into ev­ery­day ac­tiv­i­ties and oc­cur­rences here. Par­tic­u­larly name-rich sources in­clude set­tle­ment pa­pers, re­moval or­ders and bas­tardy bonds,” says Daniel. “How­ever, many of the lists for th­ese parishes can only be viewed in our In­dex Room. The aim of the pro­ject is to scan the ex­ist­ing lists and send them out to vol­un­teers to type up in their own time – ei­ther at home, in the ar­chives or both. They then re­turn this in­for­ma­tion back to us to add to our new on­line cat­a­logue, which can be viewed any­where in the world.”

Northamp­ton­shire is land­locked sur­rounded by eight other coun­ties, and the bound­ary with Lin­colnshire is Eng­land’s short­est – just 19 me­tres long! No­bil­ity and gen­try es­tab­lished them­selves in the county af­ter the Ref­or­ma­tion, be­cause of its rich farm­ing and hunt­ing land, to­gether with its cen­tral lo­ca­tion.

Its rep­u­ta­tion as the land of ‘ Squires and Spires’ is re­flected ini the vast es­tate and fam­ily col­lec­tionsc that sur­vive. Daniel sayss that many of th­ese records, suchs as the Finch Hat­ton and West­mor­landW of Apethorpe col­lec­tions,c are of na­tional im­por­tance,i but as well as re­lat­ing tot ma­jor his­tor­i­cal fig­ures and events,e they in­clude records of peo­plep who lived and worked ono the es­tates.

Other sources of in­for­ma­tion thatt can be in­valu­able, par­tic­u­larly forf trac­ing in­di­vid­u­als be­tween thet census years or post-1911, re­later to tax and prop­erty, Daniel says. “So, for ex­am­ple, we have a Union Val­u­a­tion List for Higham Fer­rers from 1906 and a Sale Book for land and prop­erty here in 1914. The val­u­a­tion list gives the names of peo­ple liv­ing at par­tic­u­lar ad­dresses in 1906, and re­searchers can then cross­ref­er­ence this with the sale book to find pho­to­graphs of par­tic­u­lar prop­er­ties and get a real sense of where their an­ces­tors lived.”

Many of the on­go­ing vol­un­teer projects are manned by mem­bers of the Northamp­ton­shire FHS (NFHS), who also con­tinue to tran­scribe and pub­lish me­mo­rial in­scrip­tions from across the county. Around 170 have been pub­lished as MI book­lets, while oth­ers are await­ing ver­i­fi­ca­tion and check­ing prior to pub­li­ca­tion.

Chair­man Brian Gub­bins says: “The work of record­ing the me­mo­rial in­scrip­tions is in­valu­able as the sur­face of many stones in church­yards are de­te­ri­o­rat­ing rapidly.”

The so­ci­ety also has a search­able Per­sonal Names Data­base, which boasts some 1.3 mil­lion names. Brian says: “Be­sides chris­ten­ings, mar­riages and buri­als, it con­tains other use­ful data such as mili­tia lists, hos­pi­tal records and Poor Law en­tries.” The so­ci­ety also pro­vides a search ser­vice through its mar­riage, burial and pro­bate in­dexes for Northamp­ton­shire and Rut­land. Some of the tran­scribed data, in­clud­ing the NFHS con­tri­bu­tion to the Na­tional Burial In­dex, is avail­able via Find­my­past. The so­ci­ety’s web­site is full of use­ful in­for­ma­tion about re­search in the area (click ‘About the County’), plus de­tails of how to join, cur­rent projects and pub­li­ca­tions, and its reg­u­lar branch meet­ings. Brian says: “Our so­ci­ety web­site is due to be up­dated. We’re mov­ing from an old tech­nol­ogy for­mat into an in­ter­ac­tive ver­sion.”

Mean­while, the NFHS li­brary can be ac­cessed at the So­ci­ety Room in Welling­bor­ough Mu­seum ev­ery Wed­nes­day and the se­cond Satur­day of the month.

Its rep­u­ta­tion as the land of 'Squires and Spires' is re­flected in the vast es­tate and fam­ily col­lec­tions that sur­vive

Salvin's flag tower and Tu­dor ar­chi­tec­ture at Rockingham

Cas­tle, Northamp­ton­shire

Shoe­mak­ers at work in the hand-sewing room at Stick­lands, Northamp­ton, c1950

Agri­cul­tural work­ers pose next

to a loaded hay wagon in Hel­li­don, Northamp­ton­shire

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