After a break of several months I finally found myself back in an archive again doing some proper research. After a bit of a later start than usual (an extra hour and a half in bed) I made way down to Chichester, West Sussex.
First stop was Chichester Public Library to have a look at some local newspapers on microfilm. I didn’t have a great deal of success, I was looking for a mention of the six BOXALLs on West Dean war memorial, it was a bit of a long shot from the start, but I wasn’t finding the results I was expecting and the microfilm reader was not very good. So rather than waste any further time and run the risk of headache from trying to read the screen I decided to cut my losses and head down the road to the West Sussex Record Office.
Things improved at West Sussex Record Office, but only marginally. I more or less gave up on finding mention of the war memorial BOXALLs and the Roll of Honour for West Dean (WSRO PAR 65/7/9) was very disappointing, without any BOXALLs whatsoever. So instead I switched to searching newspapers for information on James and Caroline BOXALL and their 27 children. I had moderate success with this, finding two references, one was an obituary for James and the other was their sixtieth wedding anniversary.
Both articles were illustrated with the same photo of James and Caroline, which sadly is too poor quality to worry about reproducing here. I would have to scan the photocopy of the print from a microfilm image of the original newspaper article, after all that I would be surprised if there was anything recognisable left. It might be worth contacting the newspaper itself to see what has happened to their photo archive, but I doubt it will have survived.
I did learn one interesting fact however, which I need to follow up and confirm. It looks like one of the grandchildren of James and Caroline BOXALL became Mayor of Chichester. You never know quite what you are going to find once you start digging.
The real highlight of the record office was not in the records, but out in the reception area. The record office were selling off some of their duplicate Ordnance Survey maps. There were loads of them, and I am not talking about the small folding kind of maps that would fit in your jacket pocket, these were mostly large scale (25″ to 1 mile) and across a wide time range. Needless to say I came away with a bundle (actually a roll) of maps, for places where my ancestors lived. Now I am not quite sure what I am going to do with them, but it was an opportunity too good to miss.
I have just finished reading the book Map Addict by Mike Parker (published by HarperCollins in 2009) and I must say it is probably the best book I have read this year. I heard the author earlier in the year presenting a series on BBC Radio 4 entitled On the Map, which was enjoyable but disappointingly short. Much of the material from the radio series is also featured in the book, or probably in truth it was the other way round.
I have a strong interest in maps but would not really consider myself to be a map addict (and certainly not to the same extreme as the author), so the subject matter obviously appealed to me, but the book is so wide ranging that you don’t really need to have an obsession with maps and mapping to enjoy it. The style of writing is passionate and engaging, and in some places very personal and funny.
The book covers the origins of the Ordnance Survey, through to the impact of the satnav and internet mapping and many points in between, including how Greenwich became home to the Prime Meridian and the Summer Solstice alignments in the heart of Milton Keynes. The book also describes the many and varied reasons for the creation of maps over the centuries.
It has been a long time since I have found a non-fiction (or fiction) book impossible to put down, but it really was the case with this book. It has made me laugh out loud, as well as making me question my own relationship with maps.
By now it should be obvious to my readers that I love maps. Both historic and modern maps are useful tools for family history research, and of course modern maps are almost essential for a wandering genealogist who doesn’t want to get lost in the middle of nowhere.
There is one type of map which I find irresistible, these are the Old Ordnance Survey Maps published by Alan Godfrey Maps known as The Godfrey Edition. These maps are reprints of historic Ordnance Survey maps for selected areas at a specific point in time. The series now covers not only Great Britain, but has also extended over the channel into France, Belgium and Germany.
Most of the maps are taken from the 1:2500 scale OS maps, usually covering towns and cities (London is particularly well covered) and as well as the map they usually contain historical notes, historic photographs of the area and a brief extract from a local directory. All very helpful in building up a picture of the area your ancestors came from.
Alan Godfrey Maps were at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2010 (see their March newsletter) and I just missed out on getting a copy of their Brighton map, so I took advantage of their online map shop and quickly received my map through the post. They are tremendous value for money as well, at the time of writing they are £2.25 each (excluding postage).
It wasn’t until I found myself exploring their website that I discovered that Alan Godfrey had been awarded a well deserved MBE in the 2010 New Years Honour List for services to heritage.
If like me you find yourself getting lost exploring the minute detail of old maps then you probably already know about Alan Godfrey Maps, but if not give their website a visit and see what you are missing.