A decade of dig­ging

Alan Crosby cel­e­brates the achieve­ments of Ryedale Fam­ily His­tory Group over the past 10 years

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Ryedale Fam­ily His­tory Group in North York­shire cel­e­brated its 10th an­niver­sary this year. Its chair­man, Peter Braith­waite is de­lighted with the land­mark: “In that time we’ve es­tab­lished our­selves as the lead­ing fam­ily his­tory group in the area.”

At its AGM to mark the event in July, he thanked ev­ery­one in­volved, es­pe­cially mem­bers and vol­un­teers who had taken part in projects, for their sup­port over the years.

The group was orig­i­nally in­spired by an ex­ist­ing lo­cal his­tory so­ci­ety in the small mar­ket town of Kirk­by­moor­side. Var­i­ous peo­ple thought there was scope for widen­ing the ge­o­graph­i­cal area and Jan­ice Wood, a vol­un­teer who was in­volved in plan­ning the idea and is now vice chair­man, de­scribed their as­ton­ish­ment at the group’s ap­peal and how they got things un­der­way: “We ad­ver­tised a meet­ing back in 2005 across Ryedale for peo­ple to at­tend and let us know if they were in­ter­ested in the idea. In the end, 40 peo­ple turned up!”

Ini­tially, the group had no fixed base but even­tu­ally found a per­ma­nent place in Hov­ing­ham Vil­lage Hall, and has held the weekly Re­search Room there ever since.

The group uses var­i­ous in­ter­net sites, a grow­ing store of lo­cal re­sources, and a lot of in­valu­able lo­cal knowl­edge, which en­ables mem­bers and non-mem­bers to come and re­search (with the help of vol­un­teers) ev­ery Thurs­day. There are of­ten seven or eight vol­un­teers at each ses­sion, with plenty of ex­per­tise to en­able new­com­ers un­fa­mil­iar with the web­sites or tech­nol­ogy to eas­ily nav­i­gate the vast quan­tity of records and data avail­able. Jan­ice sug­gested that: “As it is very easy to get it wrong and be led on a trail down the wrong lin­eage, hav­ing the vol­un­teers on hand to help is a vi­tal as­set.”

Peter adds: “In th­ese 10 years, we have achieved so much with the help of a great many vol­un­teers and the sup­port of our mem­ber­ship.

“We have tran­scribed and pro­duced more than 75 CDs and books of lo­cal parish reg­is­ters. We have also been suc­cess­ful with the Her­itage Lot­tery Fund (HLF), which has en­abled us to move for­ward and also to set up the War Me­mo­rial Pro­ject, which has in­volved many peo­ple and con­tin­ues.”

As Peter noted, the group has re­ceived sev­eral fund­ing grants, as well as fi­nan­cial sup­port over the years. Orig­i­nally, the Kirk­by­moor­side Lo­cal His­tory Group gave fund­ing to en­able mem­bers to set up their own web­site, while Awards for All al­lowed them to pur­chase equip­ment, web­site ac­counts and of­fice space.

Later, the group ap­plied to the HLF so that it could run ex­tra projects for the area. It has pro­duced books on the sol­diers re­mem­bered in lo­cal war memo­ri­als and has digi­tised parish records and mi­cro­films (which re­quired some ex­pen­sive equip­ment to trans­fer mi­cro­films to com­put­ers). Vol­un­teers worked on tran­scrib­ing parish records to a dig­i­tal for­mat and the HLF awarded £47,000 to carry out th­ese projects.

Ad­ver­tis­ing for vol­un­teers pro­duced re­ceived an in­cred­i­ble re­sponse, as Jan­ice ex­plains: “At our peak, we had 53 vol­un­teers in to­tal from all over the world, in­clud­ing New Zealand. Tran­scrib­ing records is a process that re­quires a lot of hard work and pa­tience, and we have been over­whelmed with the en­thu­si­asm of ev­ery­one in­volved.”

She ex­plained how the group has a new slo­gan, “dig­ging up your roots”, and ex­cel­lent fa­cil­i­ties and equip­ment, with that will­ing team of ex­pe­ri­enced vol­un­teers of­fer­ing help and ad­vice on fam­ily his­tory wher­ever your an­ces­tors may be.

“We meet on the third Wed­nes­day of ev­ery month in venues across the whole of Ryedale, in­clud­ing Mal­ton, Helm­s­ley, Hov­ing­ham, Kirk­by­moor­side and Pick­er­ing, with speak­ers cov­er­ing a wide range of lo­cal and fam­ily his­tory sub­jects. Ab­so­lutely any­body is wel­come to come along and find out more.”

The group uses var­i­ous in­ter­net sites, a grow­ing store of lo­cal re­sources, and a lot of in­valu­able lo­cal knowl­edge

M Mem­bersb of fR Ryedaled lF Fam­i­lyil Hi His­to­ryt Group mark its 10th an­niver­sary with a

cel­e­bra­tory cake at the July AGM

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