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Rooting Out Your Past

We are all fascinated about our origins – who and what made us the people we are now.

Genealogy is one of the fastest growing hobbies, apparently, second in America to cooking… The TV programme ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ has helped spark an extra surge of interest in this country.

We are living in a world where ‘progress’ hurtles us relentlessly forward (?), replacing old certainties and conventions with confusion and uncertainties. Family units are becoming more fluid and more complex and it is no wonder that many people find it attractive to look back to the past to regain some real sense of identity, hoping to find – in their past – answers about the present.

Wedding at Orchard Farm about 100 years agoCombining a holiday with researching your roots, tracing ancestors, maybe even discovering distant relations that live locally, has earned itself the rather grand sounding title of Ancestral Tourism. It is becoming a big thing. People are no longer satisfied with poring over archives in libraries, they also want to engage in personal research – talking to locals, exploring graveyards, looking up old addresses…

I couldn’t resist posting this photo of a wedding at Orchard Farm about a century ago (before our time here!) but of course the history of the house goes back two or three centuries from then… We’d love to know something about the people that lived here, but the censuses and our title deeds don’t go back beyond the 1840s.

We have all heard of Americans streaming back to this country, and to Ireland in particular, all anxious to gain some personal history, to discover some connection with their roots that goes back beyond a few generations. In fact they are perhaps equally keen, like many of us, to unearth some rather pleasingly romantic wrong-side-of-the-sheets link with royalty, or perhaps evidence of deprived rural beginnings which serve to highlight the subsequent progress upwards.

The impending centenary of the start of World War 1 has focused even more backward-looking interest, and with the National Arboretum “Where our Nation Remembers” less than an hour’s drive from here we are well placed for those that would like to pay a visit and perhaps find family members’ names on the wall of remembrance. The Arboretum is in Alrewas, in Staffordshire; John has been, but I have yet to go. All that go say it is incredibly moving.

Perhaps because of its county connection with the Arboretum, or perhaps just because Staffordshire really has its finger on the pulse, there is a wealth of interesting and helpful information available. Staffordshire County Council website has a Family History Resources section full of guides and suggestions to help you get started, with links to both local and national archives and libraries and family history sites including FreeBDM (births, deaths and marriages).

I looked up Ancestral Tourism on the Visit Peak District website, but was advised to check my spelling… It would seem that The Derbyshire Record Office ‘Preserving Derbyshire’s Archival Heritage’ is the place to start. They have a section on tracing your family history

The Parwich Local History Group (this link takes you to the Parwich census returns) has a very dated website but the facts and links are valuable so try to ignore the unintentional ‘historic’ aspect of some of the so-called current information.

The Parwich blog has a lot of very interesting local information. Only a few days ago we were told of £84,600 funding awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to Derbyshire County Council for a Derbyshire Lives in the First World War project to commemorate the First World War across the county. It was being suggested that Parwich itself could get involved. The blog frequently has enquiries from people in far flung corners of the world interested to find out about their forebears,and usually there is sone knowledgeable local person who can help them with information.

If you have an ancestral links with Derbyshire, that could be another pressing reason to visit.

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