Family History Help Desks 2019

As previous blogs have described, Knowsley Archives provide a series of Family History Help Desks in libraries across the borough every month. If you are new to family history research, or are trying to find your way through the maze of information and resources, expert advice and guidance is available to help you on your way.

If you would like support with your family history research, staff at the ARK – Knowsley Archives’ base in Kirkby Library – are available to help during our opening hours (see sidebar on the right), but the Family History Help Desks are an opportunity to get support at a time and location that may be more convenient for you.

There is no charge for sessions and they are run on a drop-in basis. We will do our best to answer your questions on the day, but more complicated queries may need to be followed up after your visit or require an additional appointment.

Sessions for 2019 are as follows:

PRESCOT LIBRARY

Tuesday

10am-1pm

STOCKBRIDGE LIBRARY

Tuesday

2pm-5pm

KIRKBY LIBRARY

Thursday

10am-1pm

HALEWOOD LIBRARY

Friday

2pm-5pm

HUYTON LIBRARY

Saturday

10am-1pm

22nd January 22nd January 24th January 25th January 26th January
19th February 19th February 21st February 22nd February 23rd February
19th March 19th March 21st March 22nd March 23rd March
23rd April 23rd April 25th April 26th April 27th April
28th May 28th May 30th May 31st May 1st June
25th June 25th June 27th June 28th June 29th June
23rd July 23rd July 25th July 26th July 27th July
20th August 20th August 22nd August 23rd August 24th August
17th September 17th September 19th September 20th September 21st September
15th October 15th October 17th October 18th October 19th October
12th November 12th November 14th November 15th November 16th November
10th December 10th December 12th December 13th December 14th December

 

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Discovering the Dude

Fans of the classic Coen Brothers film, The Big Lebowski, will remember Jeff Bridges’ brilliant performance as the Dude. However, let me introduce you to a much earlier – and very different! – Dude. Our Dude is called John (or Jack) Pulman and served in the British Navy during the First World War.

Photograph of Jack Pulman, 1917

Jack Pulman, 1917

Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery, we are currently undertaking a project, called Diary of a Dude, revolving around Jack’s incredible First World War diary and the many photographs he took during the War. Having been a merchant seaman, Liverpool-born Jack signed up for the Navy in October 1914 whilst working in the Hong Kong area, which is when his journal entries begin. His first two entries read:

“October 30th,1914. Hong Kong. Volunteers wanted for Royal Navy to complete various ships company. Enquired terms of service and finding them satisfactory, volunteered. October  31st, accepted and signed on for the period of the war.”

All very interesting, you may be thinking, but why the ‘Diary of a Dude’ title? As we first looked through the diary, we were delighted to find that – as well as a seriously talented photographer – Jack was a musician and he formed a band with a few fellow sailors, calling themselves the Deolali Dudes and performing at various entertainment concerts the men would put on for each other. The Deolali part of their name comes from one of the army camps that Jack and some his fellow sailors went to for rest and recuperation. The Deolali transit camp was in the Nashik district of Maharashtra, India and had been a British camp since 1849. It continued to be used by the British during the First and Second World Wars and became a camp notorious for both being unpleasant and for the psychological problems of the many service personnel that passed through it. This latter part of its reputation gave birth to the phrase ‘gone doolally’ (a derivation of Deolali). Whatever Jack made of the camp, he and his friends performed under the band name at various social events there and elsewhere. Included in the diary are copies of hand-drawn (possibly by Jack) programmes for concerts, where we can find out exactly what tunes the Dudes played and what other entertainment the evening offered.

Photograph of Jack Pulman and the rest of the Deolali Dudes, circa 1916

The Deolali Dudes, c. 1916, with Jack back row, far right

As you can imagine, whenever we have something like Jack’s diary donated to the archive, we’re desperate to look inside and find out more about the people associated with the document. However, the first priority has to be making sure we can preserve the document as well as possible and make it available to the public for research and study. In the case of Jack’s diary, it was clear that a lot of work was needed before making it available for research.

An example of a badly damaged photograph from the diary with parts of the image ripped away

An example of a badly damaged photograph from the diary

The journal was in a poor state, with extensive water damage (appropriately for a naval diary!) and the spine of the volume was very weak, meaning that the diary could not be opened fully without causing further damage. Included with the diary are almost 150 photographs and images. The majority of these have been glued directly onto pages of the diary and many of these were also in poor condition. Over time, most adhesives cause damage to paper and, combined with water damage, this had added to the condition problems we now faced. Where photographs had been glued to opposite pages, many of them had stuck to each other and then someone had tried to prise them apart, leaving images with portions missing or torn.

We knew that we needed to bring in a professional conservator to make sure that the diary and its remarkable contents could be repaired as best as possible. Thanks to the Heritage Lottery funding we were able to do this and it was a joy to have the diary return looking fantastic and to be able to open it (thanks to a new spine!) and discover more about Jack and his experiences during the War.

Jack also seems to have played a role in inventing a new sport to keep people entertained during shore leave: donkey football! The diary comes with a set of rules for the sport that include: “donkeys must not charge the goalkeeper” and “should one donkey mount another, a foul is given against the mounting donkey”! Who knows what the donkeys made of this, although the rules do state that “no sticks [are] to be used against donkeys, or cruelty of any kind.”

Photograph of a game of donkey football, circa 1917

A game of donkey football underway! c. 1917

As we’re into the Christmas season, it’s worth highlighting Christmas 1915 on board Jack’s ship, as what Jack calls a “catastrophe” had happened: they’d run out of spuds. “Pity our Christmas dinner,” Jack writes. The dinner ended up being:

“a proper scrape up…a little bit of tough mutton and a few half cooked marrowfat peas…while the sweets consisted of a bit of workhouse duff that we had managed to knock up. The wines (don’t skit): one whole bottle of bulldog beer per man.” 

Of course, the majority of the diary is concerned with Jack’s time on board ship and is filled with descriptions of skirmishes and battles, as well as their daily routine of stopping and searching local shipping traffic in the Red Sea and off the east coast of Africa. His photographs include images of enemy ships, prisoners and local boats being searched, as well as weaponry and serious-looking officers. Jack also demonstrates that his artistic skills extended to watercolours and he includes a couple of paintings in the diary. One of these is a map showing the North Africa and the Suez Canal area, with ports Jack visited, and another shows how a skirmish with enemy forces played out, with the positions of the combatants marked on a painting of the coastline.

A watercolour map of the North African coast and Suez Canal, painted by Jack Pulman, circa 1915

A watercolour map of the North African coast and the Suez Canal, painted by Jack Pulman, c. 1915

As the diary continues through the War, Jack’s descriptions of daily activity become more and more brief, perhaps reflecting how normal and mundane these extraordinary circumstances were becoming to him. The emphasis in his entries shifts from describing naval activity to taking more pleasure in describing places they pass through or the free time that he and his colleagues clearly relished. His photographs also begin to reflect this, with some beautiful landscape and architecture photography, images of local people he encounters on his travels, and an increasing number of images showing colleagues relaxing and enjoying themselves. Jack even shares his camera with colleagues, resulting in his friend Kerrison providing an early example of the selfie: photographing himself looking in a mirror!

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Of course, as much as we find Jack’s descriptions of the War fascinating, he will have spent much of his time wanting to get home to his wife and young child. This sense of frustration is made plain by an entry that reflects on the three years he has been with the Navy:

“October 31st 1914 to November 14th 1917: 3 years of wasted time.”

If you would like to read more extracts from the Diary and follow Jack’s journeys, we have a dedicated Twitter page where we are posting extracts and images on a regular basis: Diary of the Dude

Find Out More About Knowsley’s Incredible History!

Photo credit: John Wakefield

It’s that special time of year again! No, not quite Christmas, but it is coming up to the Explore Your Archives Launch Week (18-26 November 2017).

Explore Your Archives is a campaign coordinated jointly by the National Archives and the Archives and Records Association to promote awareness of the fantastic treasures and remarkable histories housed within archives across the UK. Many archives take the opportunity to promote different aspects of their collections and encourage people to come and find out more about their local repositories – and we’re no exception!

This year, visitors can find out more about Knowsley Archives and some of the amazing things we look after by coming along to a few different activities at our base, the ARK, in Kirkby and across the Knowsley borough. See below for a list of what’s on offer, with times and locations.

  • Our popular Family History Help Desks will be visiting each of Knowsley’s Libraries. No appointment is necessary, you can just call in during the times and venues below and get some expert advice on exploring your family tree. Whether you’re just starting out, have reached a particularly tricky point in your research, or want to talk over your findings, our expert, Rob, will be able to help you out!

Tuesday 21st November: 

10am-1pm – PRESCOT LIBRARY                2pm-5pm – STOCKBRIDGE LIBRARY

Thursday 23rd November:

10am-1pm – KIRKBY LIBRARY                2pm-5pm – HALEWOOD LIBRARY

Friday 24th November:

2pm-5pm – HALEWOOD LIBRARY

Saturday 25th November:

10am-1pm – HUYTON LIBRARY

  • If you’d like to find out more about the ARK and the wonderful archive collections we hold there, why not come along to a guided introduction, where you will have the chance to explore some of our most interesting items!

Tuesday 21st November:

10am-1pm or 2pm-4pm at the ARK, KIRKBY LIBRARY in the Kirkby Centre

  • If sitting down and watching films is more your thing, we’ll be showing a selection of Knowsley-themed films from our collections, including some of the films made as part of our Heritage Lottery funded community projects that explore our borough’s rich and varied history with local communities. We’ll also be sharing some rarely-seen archive footage from across the borough.

Friday 24th November:

10am-1pm or 2pm-4pm at the ARK, KIRKBY LIBRARY in the Kirkby Centre

We hope you’ll be able to join us at some point during the week, but if you can’t make it and want to come and visit the ARK another time, just get in touch! If you’re not local to the ARK and are wondering what is going on for Explore Your Archives closer to home, take a look at the Explore Your Archive website.

Test your Knowsley Sports Knowledge!

As part of the Knowsley Sports and Culture Awards, which were held on Friday October 13th, 2017, Knowsley Archives put together a sports quiz based on items from our archive collections. Thanks in particular should go to our super volunteer, Michael, who has been scouring our newspaper cuttings to find interesting sports-themed stories.

Huyton Cricket Club, 1955

We’ll be exploring some of those stories, and looking for people’s memories, memorabilia and experiences, as part of our Heritage Lottery funded sports project. Look our for more information about that project in the local press and on our social media pages – and we’ll be adding another blog here all about the sports project very soon.

In the meantime, follow the link below to have a go at our quiz!

 

Listening to Postcards

As detailed in an earlier blog, one of the collections that is being digitised and catalogued thanks to our Heritage Lottery funding is the personal collection of a family who used to live in Huyton and was deposited by a member of the family who had been born in 1914, shortly before the outbreak of war. Luckily for us, she was an habitual hoarder – keeping correspondence between herself, family members and friends, as well as various other family-related items. Included amongst the family’s business and personal documents are some fantastic postcards sent and received from the First World War through to the Second World War. My earlier post on this collection described how powerful and insightful these are and how they provide a fascinating glimpse into the relationships family members had with each other and their wider friendship and community networks. The combination of image and words that postcards bring together has a wonderful way of evoking voices, allowing us a rare opportunity to listen to the past.

Now that the digitisation and cataloguing of the postcards have been completed, we decided to put up a small display of duplicates, with labels providing interesting contextual information.

girl holding dog postcard 1918

Postcard from 1918 showing a young girl holding a dog

Four of the postcards are part of a chain between a father who was serving in the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War and his young daughter (whose personal collection all of the items in the display come from). As described in an earlier post (‘Postcards from the Past’), the pair used to enjoy trying to outdo each other with cards that made them laugh or they found particularly cute – usually meaning pictures of little girls or sweet animals or, even more ideal, animals and children together!

Also from the First World War period, we have two cards that portray the devastation wrought by battle in Europe. Postcards with images of bombed ruins in France were popular towards the end of the First World War with British soldiers sending word home or to be purchased as a souvenir of the war. The postcard of Peronne we have selected (below, top) is one of several in this collection that was not sent to anyone, but brought back to England as, presumably, a memento. As ever, humorous cards were very popular to send home and our other card of war damage (below, bottom) provides a brilliantly incongruous image of a British soldier taking a nap on a bed amongst the ruins.

the little house postcard 1917

‘The Little House,’ Peronne, 1917

Tommy sleeping in the ruins postcard 1917

‘A Tommy Does A Sleep Amongst the Ruins,’ 1917

The postcards we have selected from the inter-war years reflect the social life of our depositor as she became a young woman who was lucky enough to travel across the country and visit parts of mainland Europe. From 1928, her elder sister, sends a beautiful image of the Blackpool Illuminations back home to her then-teenage sister, a reminder of both the long history of the Illuminations and the popularity of Blackpool as a short break destination for residents of Merseyside and the surrounding areas.

blackpool illuminations front

The Blackpool Illuminations, 1928

Our young woman’s correspondents during the 1930s include a German man who would send her postcards in English, French and German. Amongst these are two postcards of great historical significance. The first (below, top), from April 1938 and written in English with an image of Semmering, Austria, was sent from Vienna, Austria, shortly after Adolf Hitler had annexed the country and paraded triumphantly through the city. The sender uses apostrophes when writing how ‘happy’ his friends are to see Hitler there, possibly indicating that they were exactly the opposite. The second (below, bottom) has an image of the Rheinhotel Dreesen in Bad Godesberg, Germany, and was sent on 22nd September 1938. The German text contains references to Hitler and the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, as it was written and sent whilst historic meetings were taking place at the hotel between the pair that would, with hindsight, bring the Second World War one step closer.

postcard Semmering Polleroswand 1938

Semmering, Austria, 1938

bad godesberg front

Rheinhotel Dreesen, Bad Godesberg, 1938

The mini-exhibition of postcards can be viewed at Kirkby Library, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays: 10am – 5pm; Thursdays and Saturdays: 10am – 1pm. For any more information about the collection or to view the originals, please contact Knowsley Archives.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…

It’s that time of year again: the leaves on the trees have turned autumnal gold, red and brown and the clocks have turned back, giving us a delicious extra hour to spend, whether it be a golden hour of additional sleep or time to get involved in leisure activities. Here at The ARK, our thoughts have turned to Explore Your Archive and we are busy making plans for some exciting events and activities which will take place throughout November.

The Explore Your Archive campaign is led by The National Archives and the Archives and Records Association. This national  campaign gears up in mid-November, with archives from different sectors across the UK and Ireland taking part to raise awareness of the value of archives to society and of the rich variety of content that is held, preserved and made available to users. The campaign aims to encourage people to take a closer look at their local archives and to discover the treasures that reveal the stories, facts, places and people that are at the heart of our communities.

The ARK events are all free to attend and kick off on Tuesday 10th November with our ever-popular Family History Help Desk drop-in sessions. Find us at Prescot Library, 10:00am – 1:00pm and later at Stockbridge Village Library between 2:00pm and 5:00pm. The ARK, Kirkby Library will be the venue for the session on Thursday 11th November, between 10:00am and 1:00pm and on Friday 13th November we’ll be offering genealogical help and advice at Halewood Library between 2:00pm and 5:00pm. The final Help Desk of the month will be at Huyton Library on Saturday 14th November between 10:00am and 1:00pm.

The ARK holds a number of fascinating oral history interviews made during the 1970s, featuring local politicians as well as ordinary people who recorded their recollections of times gone by. This year, supported by HLF, we have been able to develop the collection through the Talking Kirkby project undertaken by Kirkby U3A, when local residents shared their memories of Kirkby in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s with members of the U3A. On Monday 16th November, we’ll be showcasing the audio collections, old and new, in The ARK through Sounding Out the Past. Sessions will run from 10:00am – 12:00pm and 2:00pm – 4:00pm. There’ll even be an opportunity for you to record your own memories!

Tuesday 17th November is Explore Your Archive Day, with an afternoon of exploration and information about how the archive ticks. From 1:00pm – 2:00pm and then from 3:00pm – 4:00pm, the cry is Your Archive Needs You! You will have the opportunity to find out how you can get involved in our HLF projects as a volunteer. Nestled in between these sessions, there will be a short presentation and Tour of The ARK – giving you a behind the scenes glimpse of how the archive works and a rare opportunity to view close up some of our most precious treasures.

Explore Your Archive has given us a wonderful opportunity to work with the Prescot Townscape Heritage Initiative and MATE Productions to engage local primary school children in an exciting initiative which will bring the archive alive through drama and interactive learning. Pupils from Our Lady’s Catholic Primary School, Prescot will be joining us on Wednesday 18th and Thursday 19th November for A Morning (or Afternoon!) in the Archive, when they will discover the rich history of their home town.

Friday 20th November brings the focus back to The ARK and a spot of refection with the TV Time Travellers.  Join us from 2:00pm – 3:30pm for a single showing of 3 of our most popular local history films: Kirkby: Portrait of a Town; Knowsley Today and Bridge Over the Bluebell. There’ll also be a chance to chat to our HLF Project Co-ordinators about volunteer opportunities.

So: there’s lot’s happening this November, and all of our public events are free to attend – so go on: Explore Your Archive!

Just call us on 0151 443 4291 or email infoheritage@knowsley.gov.uk for more information or to book a place. We look forward to meeting you!

A seasonal image from the archive... A Kirkby farmer using a horse drawn plough to prepare for another year's crop [n.d. circa 1930]

A seasonal image from the archive… A Kirkby farmer using a horse drawn plough to prepare for another year’s crop
[n.d. circa 1930]