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Pre-internet 1982 marked the start of my quest to know “from whence I came”. Fortunately family knowledge enabled me to go straight to parish registers down some lines, leap-frogging post 1837 material. Speedily, I was able to trace direct line trees, as generations had remained in the same villages. Filling in gaps and widening the trees was more problematical. Little or nothing had been transcribed and consequently those early days featured trips to London to search the massive, weighty tomes for Birth, Marriage and Death records in Somerset House, and also to scroll through reels of census microfilms. One more or less needed to know where people were already in order to locate them in the censuses, otherwise you were in time-consuming “needle in haystack” territory. In county record offices one was privileged to handle the original parish registers. It is wonderful many of these are now online for all the world to see from the comfort of an armchair in ones own home, and without document-risking damage. Many sources of information remain, as yet, un-transcribed – including many earlier British military and manorial records, which doubtless, will in time future, prove fruitful. I have searched regimental records, at the National Archives, Kew, London, with some success, but it is very labour-intensive akin to the researching in the 1980s. Some records have been destroyed (Chapel Royal, Woodstock) or are unavailable, such as Woodstock manorial records are in private hands, having been given to the Blenheim Estate by Queen Anne. Would that they been left to the State by her. I doubt therefore that transcription will take place in my lifetime.
In the early days one shared information one had transcribed with others – that information being hard and expensive to acquire and there was much networking between researchers - casting around for those “needles in haystacks". In particular I should like to pay tribute to, and acknowledge my debt to various sources of data, research & those with whom I have conferred in years past (even though in recent years the exponentially expanding commercial availability of source material has to a certain extent overtaken those laborious past efforts) including, amongst others, Margaret Bartlett (King), David Beames (OXFHS Wills), Steve Cox, Jodie Edgar (Evans), Joy H Edwards (Comber), Denise Elliott, Tom Garland (MNHFS), Jeremy S W Gibson (author of books on location of sources of genealogical records), Matthew Griffiths (1970’s Ph.d. thesis – Kirtlington an Oxfordshire Community 1500-1750), Alan Heard, Andy King, Marilyn Long, the late William Lyall, the late Herbert E. R. Marsh, the late Wilfred Pearce, Maggie Pearce (Simmons line), Graeme Pearce, Percy Phelps, John Robins, Valerie Simmons, the late Ryan Taylor, Rose Kilfoyle & her son Deric Toms, Judy Venables, Elaine Westaway, Christopher Woodward, my mother & my late father Frank Woodward.
I am struck by the sheer beauty of the now picturesque villages which provided the backdrop to my forebears lives, which often contrasts uncomfortably and incongruously with the arduous and often shortened nature of those lives. In tribute, my contributions honour and commemorate those forebears to whom I owe my existence.
[My will transcriptions are available on the Oxfordshire Family History Website (Hall, Long, Venimore, Woodward) as well being submitted to the Somerset Heritage Centre (Cox, Dyke)].
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