21 January 2010

Neat and Tidy Family History Research

Research can be an enthusiastic pursuit, whatever the topic. We accumulate knowledge and gather it together, or, at least in my case, let it overflow all over the place.

I love the investigative side of research but do not particularly enjoy the task of organising everything so that it is neat and tidy and easy to find. It might be because I ran out of spare room in the house long ago. How do you keep your research organised?

My approach to housework is a bit like my approach to research. I like to keep food free from contamination but that is about as far as my efforts usually go. There are far more interesting things to do besides cleaning, tidying and being obsessed with neatness!

Research can become contaminated if we give in to peer pressure, take someone else's opinion as truth and forget to question the validity of our (and their) findings. How independent is your research?  How clean is your data?

The above picture is of my great grandmother Annie G in her maid days in London before the First World War. I don't know what sort of maid she might have been. The house number is 114 but I don't know where the house is or was located.

Annie was a very efficient housekeeper when she married Jack and had five children, four of whom were very boisterous boys. She was able to knit and sew while her husband could mend shoes. I don't know how tidy their house might have been. I know that they did not have any servants.

Here is a picture of my grandmother Dorothy and her best friend Beatrice beside the River Severn in Shropshire, England. I am not sure when this picture was taken but it looks like it may have been in the 1930s after Dorothy married Beatrice's step-brother Harry.

Dorothy was a well-organised housewife, according to my mother. I lived with Dorothy and Harry for a while after I left school. My grandmother would always do the laundry by hand. She did not want a washing machine though she did have a small spin dryer.

She did not want a refrigerator either as she had a perfectly good larder and she and Harry would shop for their essential food items several times a week. My grandparents never had a telephone. Why would they need one of those when they could write letters?

Beatrice married a man I know as Uncle Jimmy though his real name is Fred. Uncle Jimmy is 97 years old and is a lovely, poetic old gentleman but he misses his wife very much. After the Second World War, Beatrice and Jimmy lived in a caravan for many years. They had two children there and when the family finally moved into a council house, Beatrice became very house proud, in the nicest sort of way.

Now, is it time for you to clean your family history data?


  1. I especially enjoyed reading today's post. Reminds me of my mother, who is still with me, as well as my maternal grandfather who was actually a better housekeeper than grandmom (according to mom)

  2. Hello Mavis and thank you for your comments. It is lovely to hear from you. I enjoy reflecting on the domestic activities of households over the past couple of centuries. It certainly helps me to appreciate my washing machine and microwave!


I especially appreciate historical insights.