My research would have ground to a halt very early on without the Family History Library at The Church of the Latter Days Saints in Coventry. None of my ancestors have any connection with Warwickshire and day trips to County Record Offices would have been expensive and time consuming.
Thanks to the LDS I’ve been able to view films of Parish Records, Manor Court Rolls, School Admission Books and many others. Tuesday is LDS morning and I rarely miss a week. There is a core group of regulars and, over the years, we’ve been able to offer help and support in our research and in our private lives. We regularly meet for breakfast in Asda before going over to the library. Volunteer church members, with one member in overall charge, staff LDS libraries. Our volunteers are Jean and Judith and Len is the boss.
A few months ago Len announced that the LDS Roadshow was coming to town. It would be touring LDS libraries in the UK in the autumn and the spring. He was very proud and pleased because only centres with high numbers of users were granted the privilege. I was very pleased and touched when he asked me if I would like to be involved giving advice to the visitors.
Poor Len was in panic mode for the fortnight before, determined that all would go well. The opening ceremony was to be held at 2pm on Thursday, October 11th. Len had asked me and some other volunteers to be on hand to meet and greet the VIPs. The Mayors of Coventry and of Nuneaton and Bedworth arrived promptly at 1pm and were given a preview of the exhibition. I spent some time hiding from the Mayor of Nuneaton and Bedworth because he and I have clashed swords in the past about the lack of funding for the Arts in our borough.
The sisters (as female members of the church are known) had laid on an excellent buffet and, while people were eating, I sneaked into the main hall to take some photographs. Around the outside walls were display boards explaining why tracing ancestors is so important to the LDS Church and showing examples of what is available at the centres. In the centre of the room display boards were arranged to form a hexagon and at each side were two workstations where the volunteers would sit with their clients. Inside this, tucked away were the electrics and, I discovered, two American Church members who are taking the Roadshow around the country. They were making sure that all the PCs were working. They didn’t mind in the least me poking my nose in and were delighted that a non-church member had been recruited to help out.
Everyone was still eating so I wandered down to ‘Reception’ where a small queue had already formed. Every visitor would be given a starter pack with information leaflets, the opening hours of the library and some blank pedigree sheets. The members of the queue were eagerly leafing through the information. I doubled back to the library itself. Two volunteers were in there ready to explain to clients what the library had to offer them. The film and fiche readers had examples of records for visitors to see and the PCs were loaded with a selection of LDS produced data disks.
The Mayors were making their way towards me so I ducked into the smaller hall where local Family History Societies had erected displays and stalls selling their wares. I had a chat with a man from Coventry FHS about Admin Mark Dudley’s ancestry and he printed off some transcribed parish records for me. He was very impressed with how well the road show had been organised.
The press arrived and elbowed everyone aside as they took photos of the opening ceremony and of the Mayors sitting at workstations being told the basics. It was fast approaching 2pm so Len ordered us to our workstations where we waited for the hosts to bring us our first clients.
The next hour and a half was very hectic. Our instructions were to spend about 15 minutes with each client then pass them to a host who would take them to the library so they could see the facilities. All of my clients were absolute beginners, which was wonderful because I was able to show all of them an ancestor on the 1901 census.
It was very difficult limiting the time because they were so enthusiastic and anxious to know more but Len stood beside me tapping his foot when my time was up, so I took the hint. I paused for breath after client number five and saw there was no one waiting so went for a wander around the hall. Everyone else was very busy and I could see over the corridor that there were a lot of people going in and out of the library. Len was soon at my side frowning reproachfully so I sat down again.
An Afro-Caribbean (who I shall call J) was brought over by a host and his opening words were, “You won’t find anything for me, all my ancestors were from Barbados”.
I privately thought he was probably right but I invited him to sit down while I had a ferret around the LDS website.
I went into the catalogue and typed “Barbados” into the place name search field.
And up came all these:
Barbados – Bibliography
Barbados – Biography
Barbados – Cemeteries
Barbados – Census
Barbados – Census – 1715
Barbados – Census – Indexes
Barbados – Church directories
Barbados – Church history
Barbados – Church records
Barbados – Church records – Indexes
Barbados – Civil registration
Barbados – Colonization
Barbados – Description and travel
Barbados – Description and travel – Guidebooks
Barbados – Directories
Barbados – Emigration and immigration
Barbados – Gazetteers
Barbados – Genealogy
Barbados – Genealogy – Handbooks, manuals, etc.
Barbados – Genealogy – Sources
Barbados – History
Barbados – History – Periodicals
Barbados – History – Periodicals – Indexes
Barbados – History – Sources
Barbados – History – Sources – Bibliography
Barbados – Maps
Barbados – Military records
Barbados – Military records – Indexes
Barbados – Probate records
Barbados – Slavery and bondage
The last item on the list was of most interest to him so I clicked on it for further details:
Census of the Island of Barbados, made in the year A.D. 1679 Atkins, Jonathan, Sir
Manumissions and indentures, ca. 1780-1840, arranged by name of master or slaveholder Pennsylvania Abolition Society (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
I made a note of the film numbers for him so that he could order them at the library in the future.
I suggested it would be a good idea to give the IGI indexes a try and there were, literally, hundreds of baptisms and marriages of people with his surname. He explained to me that slaves took the surnames of their masters, which was why there were so many with his name. However, he recognised a few unusual forenames as names he knew were in the family and would bear further examination. He had been told that the family surname was originally Dutch, so decided to investigate more about this. There were others waiting so I reluctantly passed J on to a host so that he could see the library.
If he decides to pursue it further I really hope he uses the centre on a Tuesday, it’s a story I really want to see unfold.
© Guinevere 2007