Meeting Report April 2014
In April some 50 members and guests welcomed well known family historian Anne Batchelor with her talk "Voices from the Past". Anne, a former teacher, has been involved in family history research for almost 30 years BC (before computers) as she described it. Her affectionate nickname, the Miss Marples of family history tells us how she is regarded locally. Due to her extensive knowledge of her subject she was a regular guest on the much missed John Boyd programme on Radio Leeds .
Anne's talk was a collection of stories of the lives of ordinary people which she had researched from their diaries and letters. She told us she was inspired to begin on this journey of discovery by finding a diary which her Grandma had kept as a child. Anne has never met her Grandma who died at a young age, but being able to piece together some aspects of her life from the diary led Anne to undertake further research into her own family. She then described how she now scours antique fairs, car boot sales and flea markets in her search for documents to start her off an another voyage of discovery. She even described how a gentleman in Scarborough, knowing her interest, sent her a diary he had rescued from a tip. No stone left unturned in her desire for new material. Anne explained how these days some of her favourite sources of information are wills. During her early years of searching she was asked if she used wills. Her reply was that hers was only an ordinary family who would never have had anything of significance to leave behind. She was surprised however to discover that her predecessors had in fact made wills and told us of one dating from 1615 where the only bequest was "one cow named nowt".
One of the most fascinating diaries she showed us was a diary written in 1957 by one of two ladies who journeyed to Denmark together. The story behind this was that originally three ladies were going to make the trip but one was unable to go, so her friend promised to record all the details of the trip for her. And so she did, illustrating the diary with photographs, menu cards , tickets and even the paper from an orange she had eaten. Anne went on to tell us how having read the diary she found out all about the author's later life and even made contact with relatives.
One of the most poignant stories she told us was collected from a diary kept by a Victorian mother which contained stories about her children. This look into the lives of this lovely family had us spellbound, and gave us a true insight into their family values and culture. With other tales ranging from the story of a young man who climbed the Matterhorn in the 1890's to the account of convicts awaiting deportation to Australia we were kept interested and entertained for the whole evening.
Anne concluded her talk by asking everyone to do a piece of homework for her. She asked that everybody write down their earliest memories of their childhood, no matter how trivial they may seem. These memories should then be saved so that many generations down the line someone can pick them up and read them and perhaps like her, feel you are talking to them from the past. She ended by saying how much pleasure she had received from her research and the importance of the diaries and wills she now owned stating, 'no one should ever be forgotten'.
After Anne's talk we enjoyed our annual pie and pea supper so ending a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
The next meeting on Monday 30th June 2014 will be an illustrated talk by Eric Wright from the Rothwell History Society entitled "Worcester Cathedral."