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From: Stephen Hayes
To: All
Date: 1995-12-04 04:45:04
Subject: Obscure sources - why it's always worth asking an RO

* Forwarded (from: GEN_BRITAIN) by Stephen Hayes using timEd/2 1.10.y2k.
* Originally from Roy Stockdill (8:8/2002) to All.
* Original dated: Sun Dec 01, 06:21

From: roy{at} ("Roy Stockdill")

I HAD a little object lesson very recently in how, even for we more 
experienced genealogists, it's always worth asking a record office 
whether they have anything on an obscure source, on the offchance of 
what might seem a very long shot indeed turning up trumps. It should 
also be a pointer to some of the newer would-be family historians 
here who seem to think it can all be done on the Internet - because 
it can't, which I keep "banging on" about, as some of you know ! 
Anyway, I thought I would share this with you, as an example of what 
kind of priceless material is just lying there in odd corners waiting 
to be harvested.

Having discovered from the 1851 and 1861 censuses for Scarborough, 
Yorkshire, that my gt-gt-grandfather THOMAS WORSNOP (1801-1872) 
was a police officer in that bracing seaside town, I contacted the 
North Yorkshire Record Office at Northallerton and asked if they had 
any police records for that era. I didn't really hold out much hope, 
but back came a letter saying they had looked through some 
Scarborough borough records and found two old accounts books for the 
police, covering a period from 1836 to 1857, in which a quick glance 
showed that the name of Thomas Worsnop appeared many times. Was I 
interested in these? (well, is the Pope a Catholic, as they say...). 
I got the impression the RO didn't even have these books listed 
themselves, except in a general way amongst the borough records, and 
had come across them by accident.

Off went a cheque sufficient to cover a reasonable amount of search 
time and after about four weeks back came a sheaf of photocopied 
pages from these aged accounts books. Was it worth the wait? You bet! 
The books went into the absolute minutae of daily life in the police 
station, listing in meticulous detail payments to every officer by 
name and amount, also showing details of sums paid to local 
tradesmen for suppling goods and services, such as bread, candles, 
oil, straw (for the horses, perhaps, or maybe for the cell floor), 
etc. Over the period of 1836-1857, the books mention around 30 
Scarborough policemen with full names and the amounts they were paid 
for working days, nights, weekends, etc, also the names of the 
tradesmen, most of whom I could identify with the aid of a Pigot's 
directory for 1834.

By a careful analysis of the accounts, I could follow my ancestor's 
career, starting off in 1836 when he appears to have been a special 
constable on duty only part-time, since for several years he was paid 
for nights and weekends only. Then came a specific time in the 1840s 
when he switched to working full days, which presumably meant he had 
become a full-time police officer. I even know exactly what he was 
doing on Christmas Day 1839 - he was patrolling the beat in 
Scarborough, since the accounts for January 1840 specifically record 
him as being paid for that day. There were also mentions of his being 
paid extra for attendance at the court sessions (spelt "sissions") at 
the town hall. Even better, there were many examples of his signature 
when he had signed for his money at the bottom of the page.

Moreover, there were names among the police officers that I 
recognised from other documents and which could help explain other 
relationships. For instance, Thomas's second wife was a SARAH HIRST 
and one of his brother officers was a Thomas Hirst, whom I suspect 
but have not yet proved was probably Sarah's brother. Another was an 
EDWARD MALTBY and Thomas's 3rd wife was a Jane Maltby. Yet another 
police colleague, WILLIAM TINDALL, appears as a witness on one of 
Thomas's marriage certificates. By use of the trades directory and an 
old map of Scarborough from the 1850s (obtained from Scarborough 
Library), I was able also to identify the tradesman and work out how 
close they were to Thomas in relation to his address in the census 
returns. All of them would have been his near neighbours and no 
doubt friends. And so it was possible to build up a general picture 
of what his life must have been like - and all from a couple of old 
notebooks found in a record office when I had really expected nothing 
at all.

Take note, folks - it's ALWAYS worth asking! And it goes without 
saying that my gratitude is due to the unknown person who thought 
those accounts books worth preserving when they could so easily have 
been destroyed.

Roy Stockdill (Editor, Journal of One-Name Studies)
Guild of One-Name Studies:-
Newbies' Guide to Genealogy & Family History:-

Never ask a man if he comes from Yorkshire. If he does he will tell you, if
he does not why humiliate him? - Canon Sydney Smith

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