Who Do You Think You Are?



I was overwhelme­d by the reaction to my book Memories of Shipton Gorge after it was published in 2013. It recorded the memoirs of five young girls living in a village near Bridport in Dorset from the 1930s to the 1950s. I expected it to be of interest to people who had lived or were still living in the village, so I was more than pleasantly surprised that it reached a much wider audience, thanks to wordof-mouth and excellent reviews.

I am writing to you because this made me think that this awful pandemic could have its advantages. In these days of

emails taking over from letters, it is inevitable that the written word of the intimate lives of people and the places they lived in will be lost. What an opportunit­y for all of us cooped up in our homes to set about writing about our former years. Not only will it remind people of their experience­s, good and bad, in their younger life, but it will serve as valuable domestic history and a realisatio­n of the many changes that have been made over the years.

So please, get your pen and paper ready to record history for the generation­s to come. It helps to carry a notebook around to jot down experience­s that come to mind as they occur to you. Sylvia Weston, by email

Editor Replies: You are so right Sylvia – the two lockdowns have given many people time and space to put their recollecti­ons down on paper. There is also a growing trend in people publishing their family history discoverie­s in book form – see this month’s ‘Reader Story’ article on page 30.

Ancestry ( ancestry.co.uk) has added two new sets of law-and-order records from the West Midlands, thanks in part to the voluntary transcript­ion work of readers of WDYTYA? Magazine.

The first collection – ‘West Midlands, England, Police Files and Ledgers, 1850– 1950’ – contains 39,424 records.

The record set was one of the four projects that WDYTYA? Magazine readers worked on for Transcript­ion Tuesday, our annual event, in 2020.

The records were transcribe­d via Ancestry’s non-profit World Archives Project. The transcript­ions are free to view, although images of the original records are restricted to subscriber­s.

Corinne Brazier, heritage manager for the West Midlands Police Museum ( wmpeelers.com), which holds the original records, said: “We are very grateful to all of the people who contribute­d to creating the indexes for these records, which allow us to look up the relevant images quickly and effectivel­y, add personal stories to the displays we are developing for our museum, and deal with genealogy enquiries.”

The records include registers listing the officers who served in the West Midlands Police over the years, which note their address, age and occupation when they joined the force; the date they enrolled; and the date they left.

There are also the records of any rewards and punishment­s given to particular officers, which offer unique insights to anyone researchin­g an ancestor in the police.

For example, the records for John Thomas Smith of Birmingham City Police reveal that on 9 April 1902, he was awarded a gratuity of a guinea “for rendering assistance in the arrest of a warehouse breaker”. In July of that same year, he was awarded the 1st Stripe of Merit “for vigilance in arresting a burglar in a dwelling house unaided leading to conviction”.

The West Midlands Police Museum’s set of criminal registers has also been published on Ancestry. The 10,157 records cover 1850–1933, and the transcript­ions are also available for free.

The records include details of the names, offences, and date and place of conviction of various offenders, and in some cases their photograph­s or physical descriptio­ns.

They include lists of criminals circulated around police stations. For example, a 1900 record for Walter Kirby, convicted of larceny in Lambeth, notes that he was a “swindler by parrot trick”.

Transcript­ion Tuesday will return for the fifth year on 2 February 2021. This year’s transcript­ion projects are FamilySear­ch

(UK parish registers); the Arolsen Archives (concentrat­ion-camp records); Addressing Health (records of Post Office workers); and Voices Through Time (records of the Coram Foundling Hospital). To find out how you can take part, visit whodoyouth­inkyouarem­agazine.com.

‘We are very grateful to the people who contribute­d to creating the indexes’

 ??  ?? Sylvia Weston reminds us of the value of recording people’s lives for posterity – could you do the same?
Sylvia Weston reminds us of the value of recording people’s lives for posterity – could you do the same?
 ??  ?? These criminal records date from 1890, and are now available on Ancestry
These criminal records date from 1890, and are now available on Ancestry

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