Some advice for our volunteer researchers.
First of all, we welcome having you as a Volunteer Researcher on the project and we are very grateful that you have joined us. You have our sincere thanks.
We are not professional historians or researchers, just ordinary people who want to try and protect Horton cemetery and respect the people buried and abandoned there.
We have never run a project like this before and, as a consequence, are very low down the learning curve at the moment. Please be forgiving of the mistakes that we will surely make. We are all learning together and it feels daunting to us, perhaps it does to you also. Let us all work together to bring some unfortunate people “back to life” so that their stories become known and we can shed more light on to the lives and deaths of people living in what was the largest psychiatric cluster of hospitals in the world.
Having started a project with a common goal we cannot work without some guidance so that we can all work effectively towards the same end. We have tried to make the guidance as friendly as possible and not impose rigorous discipline. Please feel free to make suggestions via the email@example.com email address. We encourage you to use your own writing style because it is you telling the story of your chosen subjects.
But please avoid developing a huge piece of work on a single person. We would suggest that around 1000 words on a person in suitable unless they have a wonderful, documented life story to tell of course.
At the moment we are limiting the subjects of our research to people buried in the cemetery between 1902 and 1919. This 100 year buffer avoids issues with living people and the Data Protection Act.
It is essential that we keep the stories factual, without exaggeration, embellishment or any form of manipulation. We will eventually be reviewing each other’s work to try and ensure accuracy.
The story itself – THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. You should use your own words and style.
Develop your story for the person and try to avoid just creating a list of events. The aim is to bring these people “back to life” and a story will do this far more effectively than a fairly simple list of events.
The story should be in chronological sequence of the person whose story is being told (the subject), but some longer stories do benefit from a paragraph summary/introduction at the top.
Telling a story will show the reader your subjects in a moving (literally and probably emotionally) way as their lives unfold before the reader. The story should attempt to hold the reader’s interest. Be prepared for stories of tragedy and success, broken families and love. You will come across abject poverty, early death, disease and heart-breaking stories of children, the shadow of the Workhouse and more.
I certainly, having done a small amount of this research and story telling, will never again take for granted the things we have today; such as social security, free healthcare, pensions, wide and free education, unemployment benefit, sanitation, clean water etc.
Try and add value to the story for example; “She worked as a slipper maker, mangler etc.”, “He was a costermonger, a labourer, a potman etc.” And briefly explain what these jobs entailed. “His regiment suffered many casualties at this point….”, “This part of London had many examples of extreme poverty during this period…..”, but please add a reference in the showing where you got this information.
Feel free to add short paragraphs in which you can briefly add your own thoughts, surmising, questions, e.g. “Why did her family not reclaim her body from the asylum for private burial?”, “From what did he die at this young age?”, “Imagine the emotional and financial impact of his early death.”. Start these sentences with ‘Researchers Thought:’ so as to be clear that they are your thoughts and not part of the facts that research has given you. A quick researchers thought summary at the end is a good idea.
Our Expectations of you
We will allocate you, our researchers a group of subject (~40) to research. You can choose from this list who you research and in what order. This way we avoid duplicating research.
If, having started to research somebody, the story stalls because of blind alleys (this can happen a lot), lack of definitive evidence, or any other reason; feel free to stop working on this one and move on to your next chosen subject. Keep a copy of any documents that you have created to date and send them with a covering email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will keep the story so far and may have another go at these stalled stories at a future date. Sometimes a story just cannot be told, but their name will remain with what little we have.
Deadlines? What deadlines? We don’t have deadlines… We want you to be relaxed and enjoy your research and not feel under pressure, we will not be progress chasing you.
Never trust another’s research – Ancestry/FindMypast/etc. is full of incorrect research by amateur sleuths. These member-trees are often full of error and guesswork. Unless you have the facts yourself, don’t make assumptions or believe another’s story.
Avoid going off track by writing too much about the subjects relatives, they aren’t the story. It is easy to do, especially if the relative was famous or their children went on to do wonderful things. Of course you should mention their immediate family, and if their child did do wonderful things, then why not add this as a footnote paragraph at the end, but keep it brief so as not to lose who this is really about.
Remember, we appreciate your help, this shouldn’t be a chore but an experience you enjoy.