Over the last 20 or 25 years I have been involved in a significant amount of historic research and this has led me to look into the lives of a great many people long since dead.
As a result I have amassed a sizable collection of ephemera, including personal letters, photographs, deeds, private paperwork and so on. Through the vast growing range of websites and the growing amount of data online this one-time difficult hobby has become a great deal easier and has opened all sorts of doors.
Historic research is almost the most important aspect of my life mainly due to my curiosity to always find out more. It saddens me greatly when I read on auction websites how antique dealers and other salespeople have acquired the carefully preserved archive of somebody’s life and then broken it up by individually selling off in bits of letters or occasional photographs. What these people should do is to keep it all together and to sell it as a ‘lot’ – that way the seller amasses more money and the purchaser invariably gives a much cherished and carefully preserved archive a good home.
It is amazing what can be found from a few letters and a couple of photographs. Basic births deaths and marriage archive starts to build a family tree and a brief scan of the news archives can sometimes reveal a little bit more than we would normally expect. The photographs add the faces to those we are researching. The overall outcome is a preserved record of somebody’s life. But if the archive is broken up into little pieces then there is no hope that person’s memory and life could ever be put back together again.
But why is this so important you ask yourself? The answer is that there is nothing better than touching history and the closer you can get to the past the great the understanding we have of the present. Just because a person is no longer with us and possibly passed away a hundred years back or a few decades ago it does not necessarily mean that person’s life has disappeared for ever. Although they might be strangers, over a period of time during the research they can in a way become quite close.
I think it’s always interesting to know how life was and how people managed in days gone by. What it was really like for all classes of our country, how people worked and how they survived. The ups and downs, the traumas as well as the good times and the celebrations – it is all blended together a mix that was someone’s life.
If you are one of those people who think that history is so boring then please do think again. In a way the greatest adventures are those that happened before we were born. Everybody is a hero even those whose lives were so very brief.
As a footnote if you are reading this and have access to a small shoe box full of letters, a couple of photographs and other bits and pieces that you think I will be interested in, then I would really like to hear from you. I’m always looking for new archive to purchase and who knows if you are not interested in keeping it I might be interested in buying it from you because I am always looking for a new project to keep me quiet for five minutes! You can contact me here.