I’ve been looking into a collateral line ancestor this week and that took me up to Wolverhampton City Archives.
In initial research, that I had carried out previously, I had found my great-grand uncle had left the army and moved to Wolverhampton to take up the position of Chief Constable in the Borough Police.
Making a return trip to the archive, in order to do some research for another tutorial that will eventually go in my English/Welsh family history course, I decided to take a further look into Major R D D Hay.
If you are new to family history then you may be a little unsure of using the facilities of an archive. Perhaps you worry about what sort of reception you may get. From my experience, of visiting these establishments over the years, I always get wonderful help and service from the staff on the desks up and down the country.
Ah but you are somewhat experienced at doing research, you may say.
I really don’t think that that is really a factor to consider. When I am looking to find someone, in the many small collections that the local archive or county record office has, I am in the same position as a newbie may be. I approach them and ask for their advice as to where they think I should look in their collections.
So it was this week when in the reading room at Wolverhampton. I gave them the name of the person I hoped to trace and the dates I was interested in. The staff looked on their computerised catalogue and were able to offer me the Watch Committee reports that covered both the start and the finish of Robert Hay’s tenure.
From my point of view this was fascinating as I could read the names and some details about the 106 candidates for the Chief Constable’s job. I could also see the selection process and even read who it was, on the Borough Council, who voted for my ancestor to be given the job. As it was Robert David Dewar Hay had a landslide victory over other short-listed candidate.
For other researchers, with Wolverhampton ancestors from around this time, the records may reveal your ancestor if they had any dealing with the Police, Fire brigade, or even the Weights and Measures in the borough – as all of these activities fell under the jurisdiction of the Police and the Watch Committee.
If you have a policeman ancestor he may well be mentioned if he did well or needed reprimanding. Alternatively if he was to fall ill and so required to resign, or if he died and the committee felt an obligation to his widow, again he may be mentioned by name.
I saw names of those suppliers of goods and products, such as uniforms for the police officers and firemen contained in the records. As you would expect names of local criminals appeared in the lists of warrants executed on felons, which gave a description of what they had done to deserve a visit from the boys in blue and even the report on the lady owner of a brothel that the police were trying to close down.
I do commend these types of interesting small record collections to you. As I say in my English/Welsh family history course: don’t just collect names and dates from the vital records and the census sets – try to flesh out your family tree research with some colour to add to your family history story.
The reading room at Wolverhampton City Archives
If you would like to learn more about English and Welsh ancestor research then take a look at my family history course. Or to pay in US dollars check this page out for more information: http://www.familyhistoryresearcher.com/specialoffer/aindex.html