Monday, 3 August 2015

Find out what life was like in the place your ancestors lived

One-place studies are a great way of finding out what life was like in the place your ancestors lived. Nearly 2,000 places worldwide have been registered so far. Could your special place be next?
So what is a One-Place Study?
Quite simply it’s a study of a particular place and the people who have lived there over the years. 

By ‘place’ we mean a defined geographical area. Most one-placers choose to study a village, or very small town, and the area immediately around it within its official boundaries.

By ‘people’, we generally mean everyone who lived in that place, not just those related to the one-placer’s ancestral family or people who were famous.

A one-place study brings together both the local history and family history dimensions to give a much fuller picture of what life was like in that place and why families came and went.

Have you got what it takes to become a One-Placer?
We affectionately refer to those carrying out one-place studies as ‘One-Placers’. 

They are the unsung heroes of one-place studies. They work voluntarily behind the scenes, either alone or collaboratively as a group, seeking out all kinds of historic documents and maps etc., extracting information on anyone who lived in the study place and then presenting information in a structured way for the benefit of all.

Every place is unique, every one-placer is unique and, consequently, so too is every one-place study! One-placers are free to take their studies in whichever direction they wish, working at a pace they are comfortable with. 
One-Placers on the One-Place Study Register are entitled to use the logo above.

What has been done before?
Be sure to read up on what has been written in the past on the local history of your study place. Have any books been published? Or articles in county magazines? Check out the archives for your study place as they often hold historic local books. If there is a local history group, you may be able to work collaboratively and avoid any duplication of effort. In the UK, check out the Local History Online and British Association for Local History websites.

Pacing your place
If you live within easy travelling distance of your study area, and assuming it covers a small area comprising just a village and a few surrounding hamlets, rather than a whole region, it’s great if you are able to ‘pace your place’. Essentially this means exploring each street, lane, alleyway etc. of your study place looking at the buildings etc. for clues of their age, past uses etc. Try and put yourself in the shoes of those who walked there a century or two before! Read more here.
If you can’t visit your study place in person, you may be able to take a look around courtesy of Google Streetview or equivalent.

Maps & mapping your study
Maps can prove invaluable for one-placers. Be sure to look at historic maps for your study place, not just present-day maps. Compare maps from one time period to the next to see what has changed. 
In the example above, the 1830 map shows the site of a factory - in 1926 the factory had gone and there was a cricket ground with a pavilion - just looking at present-day maps would not have revealed either feature. Some websites allow you to look at digitized historic maps side by side or to overlay them. In particular check out these historic digitised map resources for England, Wales & Scotland and the United States.  
Many one-placers find it helpful to map their study. Below is a wonderful hand-drawn map of Upton Lovell in Wiltshire prepared around 2008. 
The treasures of this one-place study are clearly marked for the benefit of all. It is annotated with lots of helpful information. It shows the old post office, the old rectory, the site of the former cloth factory and even the site of the old electricity station. It tells us Ash Walk was known as Queen Street in the 1871 census. It also reveals where the market was held and where the animal pound was.  

Local knowledge
Be sure to tap into local knowledge - talk to as many long-time residents as you are able - you'll be surprised what stories they'll come out with once prompted! 
Involving members of the local community and others researching their ancestors from your place with your study can pay dividends. One memory may jog another, a photo found by one person may prompt another to search through their old albums and so on. Latch on to little snippets of information about your study place. There's often much truth in those old rumours!

Buildings and house histories
Some one-placers build up histories for each property. For example, one-placers Winslow History Group have compiled the history of many of their buildings and for 6 High Street have got a complete history from 1664 to the present day!

In Britain, just under 500,000 buildings are on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. You can search for all such buildings in your study place on the British Listed Buildings site. The official listing entry shows further details about the construction of the building and its listing category. Alternatively search for English buildings through the Historic England site and Scottish buildings through the Historic Scotland site.

Population changes – pushes and pulls
At any point in time, a study place will have been populated by individuals - whether few or many in number. One-place studies consider all the people who have lived in the study place over the centuries. Families move into and out of the area for various reasons and there are periods when the total population increases and others when it falls.

A good starting point is to analyse the population statistics that are available for your place and to chart these. Histpop provides online access population reports for Britain and Ireland from 1801 to 1937 and allows you to ascertain the population of individual parishes etc. at ten year intervals from 1801 to 1931, to break this data down by gender, age etc. and to compare figures with county or national totals. Vision of Britain also holds some population data. 
The graphs pictured show the population changes for two adjacent Dorset villages, East Lulworth and West Lulworth. Although their populations were similar in the first half of the 19th century, subsequently one witnessed considerable growth and the other a steady decline. One-placers are keen to find out why individual families came and went and what were the major pushes and pulls.

Simple indexes, reconnection and reconstruction
Most one-placers, having researched their own family histories, will want to understand who is connected to who in their study place and to what extent families inter-married over successive generations.

Some one-placers find it helpful to create an index or database of all persons who lived in their place and to use this as the first step towards 'reconnecting' them to others on the list.

Some one-placers will go one-step further and 'reconstruct' trees for all families, sometimes as simple hand-drawn charts, or through providers like Ancestry or Findmypast where unrelated individuals can subsequently be linked as their relationships to one another are rediscovered.

Primary genealogical sources
Primary sources of family history information for one-placers are census returns that typically provide a ‘snapshot’ every ten years of everyone living in a defined geographical area and local registers that capture key events in their lives, in particular births/baptisms, marriages and deaths/burials. The earliest Church of England records date from 1538. 

Many one-placers use free sites such as FamilySearch or Mocavo or subscription sites such as Ancestry or Findmypast to view and save images of the original census schedules for all households in their one-place study area. This allows accurate transcripts to be prepared using local knowledge of surnames and place names and further analysis to be undertaken.

There are many secondary sources of information such as electoral rolls, gravestone inscriptions, land records, local directories, military records, newspaper obituaries, probate records, school records, wills, etc. We touch on just a few of these below.

Directories are a great source of information for one-place studies.  Most well- known among the directories are the Post Office Directories, Kelly’s Directories and Pigot Directories.

The 'street directory' sections, in particular, are a fantastic aid for one-placers as they show the householder or business at each street address in turn, as well as indicating where other roads joined, or features such as level crossings etc. existed. Check out the University of Leicester’s Historical Directories website for over 700 directories of England and Wales. And almost as many directories for Scotland can be accessed through the National Library of Scotland website.

Historic log books and admission registers for many schools are held at local record offices. The admission registers typically show birth date, admission year and name of a parent or guardian. Log books record some events in school life such as arrival of new teachers, low attendances due to illness or harvesting, and special commemorations. Findmypast currently offer access to over 4 million records from 28 counties in England and Wales covering the period 1870 to 1914, with further counties to be added in 2015.
Don't forget that class photographs were taken in many schools from around 1900 onwards, and coming across ones with names written on the reverse are a real boost! The photo shown was taken at Kingston School, Dorset in 1896.

Postcards and other images of your place
Do seek out old postcards of your study place. Some postcard views look much the same as another, but study them carefully and you may spot changes to buildings and uses, shop ownership and also fashions! Try online auction sites such as eBay and eBid and local postcard fairs. Storeslider is a handy tool for finding eBay auction items for your study place. TuckDB is a free online database of antique postcards published by Raphael Tuck & Sons.
Ancestry also offers access to postcards from Canada, France, Germany & Austria, Italy, the UK & Ireland and the United States. Also check for any Photochrom Prints of your study place on the PPLOC website.

Geograph is a freely accessible archive of much more recent photographs for every square kilometre of Great Britain and Ireland. All photographs are licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence, so can be used for your website or blog. Great for one-placers who live a long way from their study place!

Never under-estimate the power of the newspapers! Historic newspapers can be a rich source of information for your study place. Before the days when celebrities and soaps dominated our daily tabloids, more everyday events often made their way into the local broadsheets. The detail included in some newspaper reports from the mid-19th century through to the early 20th century can be quite amazing. For example, some newspapers reported on the funerals of local people, and detailed everyone who attended, what hymns were sung, what messages of sympathy accompanied the floral tributes etc. Increasingly more and more newspapers are being digitized. Check out Chronicling America and Trove (Australia), or Elephind which searches both, plus the British Newspaper Archive (also available through Findmypast) and Welsh Newspapers Online. In the UK, many libraries offer free access to 19th century newspapers.


In the UK, the Heritage Lottery Fund want to support projects that help local people delve into the heritage of their community, bring people together, and increase their pride in the local area.  Grants from £3,000 upwards are available. A number of one-placers working collaboratively have been successful in securing funding, including Heaton History Group earlier this year for their "Heaton Beneath Our Feet" project.

Sharing information about your study is a great way of encouraging others to contribute too. You can do this in a number of ways including local displays, talks to local groups, features in local magazines, through dedicated websites and blogs and via social media such as twitter and facebook.
We are happy to share the progress of individual studies too - on twitter and through the ‘Study Snippets’ section of Newsworld.

The One-Place Study Register
It's important to register your one-place study. The One-Place Study Register now has 1,995 study places registered worldwide. Not only does it allow people to easily see that you are carrying out the study and to make contact, but it also helps protect against others subsequently 'muscling in' on your 'territory'.

One-Placers give of their time freely - in return we'll give them the benefits of registering free too!

Registering a one-place study with us is FREE and EASY - click here to add your one-place study now. 

New look
We are rolling out new look pages for each country on the Register. An example from our United States Register is shown below.  

One-Place Studies EXTRA
We are committed to bringing you the latest news and information from the world of one-place studies FREE - no membership fees - no registration fees. 

Take a look at our One-Place Studies EXTRA site for links to lots of great ResourcesFree Guides, our regular publication Newsworld, our special In Focus publication that shines the spotlight on individual studies, individual one-placers or aspects of one-place studies you may wish to explore further.

Sometimes we can get too focused on our own studies. By reading about other studies, we can look at our own from a different perspective, be inspired and inject new ideas.

Health warning: One study may lead to another!
One-place studies can be addictive! 17% of one-placers have two studies, 10% have three studies and 11% have four or more studies study on the go because they enjoy them so much!

Interested? Then email us now!

In this article we’ve only scratched the surface with some of the resources that are available. Be sure to visit our One-Place Studies EXTRA site for many more and check out our free One-Place Study guides such as The basics’ and ‘Choosing a place‘.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Fenny Stratford Charabanc Disaster 1925

One-Placer Paul Cox, whose one-place study is of Woburn Sands in Buckinghamshire, has kindly shared information about the tragedy which befell a group of Woburn “Sandites” on their way back from a lecture at the Wesleyan Chapel in Bletchley on 7 December 1925.

The tragic accident claimed nine lives in total and injured six others. These are a few extracts from the Bedfordhsire Times:

In pitch black darkness on Monday night tragedy, swift and sudden, descended upon a happy party of Woburn Sands and Aspley Guise people on their way home by motor coach from Bletchley, after a religious meeting.

It was one of the most terrible accidents that have occurred in this County for many years, and probably one of the worst motor accidents on record. The motor coach ran through the gates of the level crossing at Fenny Stratford Station at the very moment that a train was approaching. The train crashed into it and the engine overturned, smashing the coach to pieces, and causing personal injuries which have resulted in the death of eight people, very serious injuries to four, and less serious hurts to three others. No one in the train was hurt.

A list of those killed is as follows:

  • The Revd. William and Mrs Nightingale, Woburn Sands, late of Nova Scotia.
  • Miss Kathleen Davison., Stevington, a school teacher at Woburn Sands
  • Mr Robert Ash, Aspley Guise.
  • Mrs Tom Garrett, Woburn Sands.
  • Mr Reginald Bowler, Woburn Sands.
  • Mr William Woods, Aspley Guise.
  • Miss Mary Stone, Woburn Sands; [died in hospital]

The following are in Bedford Hospital, in a critical condition:

  • Mr Frederick Griffin, Woburn Sands [he died later].
  • Mrs Tansley, Woburn Sands, and her daughters, Phyllis (17) and Daphne (6).
  • Mr Nelson Payne, Cross End, Wavendon (not serious).

Slightly injured and at home are, Miss Annie Parrott and Miss Florence Pursell. The only occupant who escaped uninjured was Mr A. J. Porter, Woburn Sands.

Read the full story here.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Researching an ancestral village - Kingston in Purbeck

Many of us have a special attachment to a place where we once lived or our ancestors once lived. Making that place the subject of a one-place study can be so rewarding, not only in uncovering fascinating snippets of information but also in helping others to piece together information about their ancestors who lived and worked there.

Nine years ago I started a One-Place Study of Kingston in the Isle of Purbeck. In this blog, I’ll tell you a little more about the village and about some of the people who helped shape its destiny.


Kingston is a great example of a small estate village, the extent and layout of which has remained relatively unchanged over the last century. It is renowned for its Romanesque ‘Cathedral of Purbeck’, designed by G. E. Street, which remained a private family chapel for over 40 years. Originally a chapelry of Corfe Castle, Kingston became an ecclesiastical parish in its own right in 1877, but still forms part of Corfe Castle parish for local government purposes. Almost all buildings are built from stone quarried locally and most are now listed. Kingston is of particular interest to me being home to my ancestral family for more than a century.

The cottages where my 4 x great grandfather was living in 1845

Movers and shapers

Key: 1. William Morton Pitt 2. John Scott, First Earl of Eldon
3. John Scott, Third Earl of Eldon 4. Rev. Spencer-Smith

William Morton Pitt M.P. (1754-1836)

When philanthropist Pitt [1] became lord of the manor towards the end of the 18th century the villagers were in considerable poverty and were reliant on smuggling and wrecking (deliberately causing ships to run aground in nearby Chapman’s Pool). He put an end to this by rebuilding the village just west of its former location and providing employment for men, women and children in a new sailcloth and rope manufactory. He established a school (supported by subscription), a Sunday school and a poor house (without any windows overlooking the street!). Unfortunately his investment in the village almost made him bankrupt and he was forced to sell the Estate in 1807.

John Scott, First Earl of Eldon (1751-1838)

The next owner was John Scott [2], the son of a Newcastle coal-merchant who had eloped to Scotland to marry the daughter of a Newcastle banker against his father’s wishes. He was a great friend of George III and the confidant of many members of the King’s family. He was the longest-ever serving Lord Chancellor, holding the role in two stints totalling over twenty-five years. He became very fond of Encombe, travelling down from London as often as possible although the journey took three days each way. When the Earl retired from Parliament in 1827 he gave a tea for 200 villagers.

In 1833 he replaced the decaying chapel-of-ease with a new church [5]. Around this time my 4 x great grandfather, a carpenter and Sunday School teacher arrived in the village with his young family. The status of workmen with a skilled trade was recognised and on Sundays they were allowed to wear a frock coat, striped trousers and a top hat. At Christmas the Earl or his agent visited every aged villager to ensure they were provided for, and every employee received a ton of coal, enough to last the year.

John Scott, Third Earl of Eldon (1845-1926) 

The Third Earl [3] was great-grandson of the First Earl and inherited his title in 1854 at the age of just 8. He was extremely popular with the Estate workers and tenants, always having time for a chat and wanting to learn of any difficulties they faced, which he did his utmost to help overcome. He contributed 2d in the shilling to the village clothing club and 1d in the shilling to the coal club.

The villagers led a hard but happy life. There would be concerts in the winter and open-air dancing in the summer. At Christmas time the Earl and Countess would entertain guests at Encombe, and on the following evening would give a party for his staff. In the cellars there were seven 150 gallon casks of beer! In 1897 he gave tea for Estate employees and families to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.


Although busy, the village always looked lovely. The Third Earl supplied rose-trees to every householder to grow around their diamond-paned windows. The woodwork of their cottages had to be painted in the estate colours of stone and purple-brown. The streets were always tidy being brushed regularly. Only the shepherds and cowmen were allowed to keep a dog as they were trained not to foul the pavements! The village was much admired and drew visitors by carriage and char-a-banc from Swanage.

There was a new school [10] and master’s house, erected in 1856 in memory of the Third Earl’s parents. There were two communal bake-houses. The blacksmith’s shop had three forges going all the time. There was a farriers and a carpenters’ yard. The village pub, the Eldon Arms, was let to a tenant who undertook to supply the village with milk. Beer was brewed on the premises. The doctor came on horseback from Corfe Castle. Sunday was kept as Sunday otherwise his Lordship would want to know why!

Key: 5. Old Church built 1833 6. Old Vicarage
7. New Vicarage 8. New Church built 1880

Unfortunately, the Third Earl became infatuated with the wife of a minister, constantly visiting her at the vicarage [6] or inviting the minister and his wife to Encombe. He then built a very substantial new vicarage [7] on the edge of the village so that he could visit more often away from the prying eyes of villagers. However, word of this reached the Bishop who arranged for the Earl to be disbarred from the House of Lords. The Earl petitioned Queen Victoria who instructed that he should be readmitted. The Bishop then did the sensible thing and moved the minister to another living. Not only this, he persuaded the Earl that he should build a very ornate private chapel as a public show of remorse.

Cathedral of Purbeck

The architect for both the new vicarage and new chapel [8] was George Edmund Street, with work on the latter starting in 1874. When the new church was completed in 1880, the Earl gave the Estate employees a holiday on Good Friday, on the strict understanding they attended the morning service! The new church remained a private family chapel for over 40 years and the estate workers spring-cleaned it every year before Easter.

Rev. Spencer Compton Spencer-Smith (1842-1911) [4] provided great stability, serving Kingston for almost 40 years, first as Curate and then as its first Vicar. My 2 x great-grandfather was his coachman and lived in the stable block attached to the new vicarage.


The Third Earl was a keen sportsman and a good shot. A small pack of hounds was kept and the local gentry brought their horses and grooms to Encombe two or three times a week during the hunting season. The Earl had one cricket team and the Rev. Spencer-Smith, having been a Cambridge Blue, had another.

Fastest vicar in the world

While on the subject of sport, the Vicar of Kingston from 1932 to 1938 was Revd. F. S. Horan, known to his family and friends as Seymour. While studying for his theological degree at Cambridge in 1895, his name hit the world headlines. He had taken up running, and he was “by far the best runner at all distances that ever went up to the ‘Varsity games. Indeed, no Oxford or Cambridge man ever ran the three miles inside of 15:00, yet Mr. Horan had on half a dozen different occasions beaten those figures, as well as reeling off the mile well inside 4:23.” Picture [9] below shows him winning the three mile race in 1895 and setting the then world record. Seymour was a man of charming character, earnest and highly esteemed, especially in Royal circles having taught two future Kings at Osborne: Edward VIII (who abdicated) and George VI.

A new beginning

The turn of the century brought new hopes and new-fangled machinery! In 1903 a gas engine was installed to generate electricity for Encombe House. It ran two days a week and stored a week’s worth of electricity in accumulators. Mains electric didn’t arrive until the mid-thirties! In 1910 a traction engine, “The Earl of Eldon”, was acquired and used for various Estate purposes, including powering the saw mill. In 1914 a new Reading Room was provided. 


When war came in August 1914 the Third Earl gave orders that every man entering the services would have their job back when they returned from service. Sadly thirteen men connected with the village did not return and they are commemorated on a memorial plaque in the new church.

After the war an ex-servicemen’s club was founded, along with a football club and slate club. Social evenings and whist drives were held. 

In 1921 the Third Earl finally conveyed the new church to the Church Commissioners – it had remained as a private chapel for over 40 years. The Third Earl died in 1926 and the Estate passed to his son, Sir Ernest Scott. 

In the mid 1930’s Rev. Horan persuaded Sir Ernest to allow a Church FĂȘte and Flower Show to be held at Encombe House. It was a great success and repeated for many years. Rev. Horan also secured permission to turn the old church into a village hall and a number of plays were broadcast on BBC radio from there. Rev. Horan and his wife also started up Scouts, Cubs and Brownie groups and a Women’s Institute which flourished for many years. 


In 1939, 94 children and their teachers were evacuated from London to Kingston and 25 children were evacuated from Southampton the following year. One evacuee is still in contact today. Twenty men from Kingston formed the Home Guard armed initially only with sticks. All iron work and railings were removed from the estate to help the war effort. Three men connected with Kingston were killed.

Key: 9. F.S. Horan setting the world record 10. School built 1856
11. Schoolchildren 1896 12. Scott Arms (formerly Eldon arms)

Kingston today

The village retains its pub, now called the Scott Arms [12], but the school closed over 50 years ago and the post office over a decade ago. The Scott Family ended its 186 year ownership of the Encombe Estate back in 1994 and it is now in the hands of airline tycoon James Gaggero.

The old church, for a while used as the village hall, is now a private residence. Neither the old or new vicarages are home to any clergy as Kingston now falls within a combined benefice of three parishes with a Priest-in-charge based at Langton Matravers.

The reading room now provides office accommodation for letting agents, architects and an Estate administrator.

By 2004 the population had fallen to 100 and has since fallen further as Estate cottages have been privately purchased and let as holiday homes. 

Village website

The village website is continually evolving and includes a wealth of genealogical information, census records, parish register transcriptions, probate records etc. along with features on families, photographs, old postcard views, local history etc. There is a facebook group with over 100 members which continually yields more information about Kingston of yesteryear.

Kingston is just one of over 1,800 places on the free Register of One-Place Studies.