What Makes a Life?

I love newspaper archives. I have waded enthusiastically in when one of my youngsters had had a project on the Industrial Revolution. When I had studied this turmultuous period at school, I had found it dull, dry and uninteresting. Wading into The British Newspaper Archives had taught me just how wrong I was. Perhaps having children descended from the starving weavers who had marched in an attempt to save their own lives and livelihoods, had helped to bring it to life. I now view the word” weaver”(Links to actual footage of workers leaving the mills in 1901).with excitement.

I never expected to find this amazing footage of millworkers leaving a factory-On a personal note I had a relative who had worked briefly in the Lancashire Woollen mills in the 1920s. She had often told me how she had been the only other woman wearing a hat, coat and shoes(being from the south of England) instead of a shawl and clogs (as see in this film). This had led to her being gently teased.


The trouble with me and newspaper archives, is that I get really caught up, as if I am reading some great novel.  I often skip straight to the end to find out the conclusion, before I can bear to read the painful bits in the middle.

It comforts me when I learn that an individual lived to a reasonable age and did not end up dying destitute in a workhouse. I was shocked to discover at least one family member who had died in the dreaded workhouse in the relatively recent past of the twentieth century. I love it when a story with an unpromising beginning, seems to end in a quiet, relatively comfortable old age-or as in the case of one individual I studied, they turn from a life of crime, to the more sedate pastime of prospecting. I guess I still seek the “Happily Ever After”. I love to read the glowing tributes to individuals who have struggled their whole life but who seem to have inspired love in friends and family. I remember a particularly touching episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where Ray decided to write his father’s obituary, while he was still alive. A sentimental story of Frank’s softer side emerges, when it is revealed how he had quietly showed affection to the children’s pet rabbit.


I have come across a few such deeply personal, touching obituaries and to me they are worth more than gold…

Alan Sachs

Death is more universal than life. Everyone dies but not everyone lives.

There is no greater legacy than learning that somebody has inspired genuine love and affection in those they have left behind.

Documentary about the historical films of Mitchell & Kenyon, who produced the film showing the mill workers.


Documentary about voices in Edwardian England.








Follow the pub

Sometimes in genealogy and also often in any form of detective work, it is necessary to go back to the drawing board. Today I found the need to do this myself, asking

What do I actually know for certain?

Well as it transpired, very little. I had built assumptions upon assumptions. Today I checked out John Panton’s address in the 1841 census once again. To my surprise, whilst surrounded by addresses in the Bailgate, he is actually listed as living in Angel yard 3.

My initial lofty ideals of them living in the grounds of a church, Were quickly discounted. Research seemed to indicate that whilst at a particular point in history, the area may have had ecclesiastical significance, the area was in fact occupied in 1841 by a pub. John Panton and family,( along with four other families) appear at that point in time to have lived in the grounds of an inn.

It can be interesting sometimes, to not merely focus on one’s own particular ancestor. To try to understand this area a little better, I investigated other adjacent households from the census, looking for their professions in particular.I made an amazing discovery. The innkeeper is listed as a woman, Charlotte Cherry.

I am now setting out to investigate Charlotte Cherry using the information I have been able to glean from the census. Having googled various combinations of “Charlotte Cherry” and Lincoln, I have finally found a reference to a Charlotte Cherry who ran the White Hart Inn in Lincoln in 1842.


I know detectives commonly use the phrase “follow the money”.

It seems to me that sometimes (when it comes to British family history at least) perhaps an appropriate mantra might be

“Follow the pub”.

Today’s search has indeed been fruitful. I have discovered James Panton(likely father of John) was living in the Angel Yards, Lincoln in 1809 and is described as a tenant. Up until this point I had no address for James Panton, prior to 1841. I am also now researching the papers to investigate any possible connections with his neighbours.

Also useful the names of other tenants living in the Angel Yards are given as:

Jos Brown

George Hanson

 Mary Johnson

Simon Mulgrave.

Edward Scrivener was seeking a young man to work in his grocers, candle house in 1841(Stamford Mercury,1841). It may well be that it was John Panton, who responded to that advertisement. Unfortunately things do not appear to have ended well for either John Panton or Edward Scrivener.

In 1857, Edward Scrivener’s shop was at 197 High Street, Lincoln and is described as:

grocer, tea dealer, candle manufacturer, hop merchant, cheese & bacon factor & general provision merchant,



Using Original Sources

Dealing with original sources, including documents is great, but has often presented challenges.

What an incredible concept! Making original material accessible to all and revealing history from primary sources.


Making original documents readily available, is an amazing goal.How exciting. must it be to realise you are able to read and transcribe a document which may be hundreds of years old. Having attempted to transcribe ancestor’s wills etc and having enjoyed history at school, I only wish I had had this opportunity.Perhaps in the future there will be many more people, brave enough to seek original documents from archives.

This has the possibility to transform many fields of research, not just family research with more people feeling confident to access original material.


Cutting & Pasting

One of the activities which I find both revealing and enjoyable is cutting and pasting.Frequently one ends up with a mass of material when doing family history research.I found it useful to physically cut out all related material- perhaps about a family a person or an event and physically stick it onto a piece of A3. It is amazing what can be discovered in this way. I realised when I had compiled all the relevant information together about one particular couple, that they  had both been arrested for totally separate illegal activities, on the same day in 1845.I have been unable to find any evidence of what may have triggered their crime spree. It would seem on that day 21st March 1845 the need for money had become particularly desperate.

I have found this particular technique really effective. In one instance it gave me the bare bones of an article which I produced about a fallen World War One soldier. I was able to put together newspaper articles with diary accounts and military records quickly and easily. One such article has been published and another is to be found  on the Lives of World War One website. My aim   is to   eventually honour every member of that regiment  who fell on that fateful day..

Using Newspaper Archives

Newspaper archives can be a wealth of information. One of my favourite activities, is to look up addresses in the newspaper archives. I found the British Newspaper Archives fascinating in this way. Putting in my father’s address for example uncovered an advertisement for a housekeeper. Perhaps that might not seem particularly revealing. However the advertisement was placed in 1944 and mentions an “invalid wife”. By 1945 the “invalid wife”(My paternal grandmother), I already knew from previous research, had died This was but one advertisement for what I knew had been a string of housekeepers who had helped to keep the family home going. This sad advertisement brought me to tears.

It is also great to know the history of a particular address, previous occupants etc.. Sometimes a street address and a surname can unearth an amazing amount.Perhaps one of my most amazing newspaper searches, related to a friend’s family who had lived in a tiny place in the middle of nowhere. Entering the place name and the family surname revealed an astonishing amount of detailed information. The death of a family cow! was described in detail ,as was the 90th birthday of her great grandfather, at which her Mother and her Aunt apparently blew out the candles.The information was printed and compiled then presented to her Mother. She had been too young to remember the 90th birthday of her Grandfather. However she went on to talk about the death of the cow until her own death a couple of years later. Her Father had been a water diviner. There was an amazing article about him, complete with photos. Not only was the information itself of great interest but it jogged memories and much discussion took place-further family incidents and information of interest was revealed. Most precious of all was perhaps the glimpse of her mother’s childhood.

Newspaper archives are an amazing resource and can open up new avenues of research but perhaps the opportunity to strengthen a family’s bonds, through intimate discoveries, is priceless!!

How to search Google News Archives


I will add I did not use Google New archive as my principle resource. However I found it great for research about historical events, which may have been connected to a particular ancestor.