Welcome to the 2013 A-Z Challenge! This is my third year of A-Z and this year, I have a theme for a change… family history and my genealogical journey into my family’s past.
My first post is about Archives, or more precisely, The National Archives.
I’ve been looking into my family history for about five years, and in January I took my first trip to the National Archives at Kew to look at some war diaries from World War 1 & 2. I was quite excited to visit – if only to get me hands on a readers’ ticket for my next visit!
The archives are in Kew, just a short walk from the tube station, set in some nice grounds. See?
Once inside on your first visit, you need to go upstairs, take a 15-minute document handling test, produce two pieces of ID (one with an address) and then you are allowed a ticket with which you can view original documents – yay!
The documents I wanted to view were war diaries related to my Grandfather during WW2 and his Grandfather in WW1 and after looking up the references that I had already searched for at home, requesting them and selecting a seat in the reading room, I went to get a coffee while they were accessed (about 40 minutes).
Once they were available, I had to go through security (metal detector, the whole bit) then collect the documents from a numbered locker corresponding to my seat number. I was off!
The first record was the war diary for C battery of the 187th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery which was where my 2x Great Grandfather, James George Jupp, was serving when he was killed on 23rd September 1916. This is one of the pages:
I was hoping that the diary would at least show his name as a casualty on the date in question, but sadly it didn’t. Still, I was thrilled and in awe to think that I was being allowed to touch a piece of paper that was nearly 100 years old. I need to work out another way to try and find the circumstances of James Jupp’s death, but that’s another post entirely!
The second record was the war diary of 4th Btn Grenadier Guards from 1940. I was looking for details of what my Grandfather might have been doing during WW2, but this diary was in fact for the wrong battalion. Again, a shame, but still it was nice to read the everyday goings on of the battalion, including football matches with the Metropolitan Police, which ‘the battalion won easily’.
So, my first trip to the National Archives was not necessarily the most successful, but I am pleased that I got the ball rolling and I’ll definitely be going again – now I have a readers’ ticket, I can order my documents ahead of time, saving time on arrival.
It’s such a privilege to have access to some of these documents that can give us so much information about our past and our family and I could spend absolutely ages just looking at things completely unrelated to me – there are books, papers, maps, all sorts of things which I could see other people looking at and desperately wanted to ask them about.
I was only able to stay for a morning on this visit, but I will definitely go back for the whole day next time and, hopefully, have the correct references this time!
As a small footnote, there is a book shop on the ground floor, selling all manner of historical titles – I was very restrained and bought only 3 National Archives pencils as, where I’m normally swimming in pencils, it was the only thing I forgot to bring!