Burntwood Family History Group
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Burntwood Family History Group
'We've Made Biographies of WWI Servicemen'
 
This is the title of an article written by Alan CROSBY that appeared on page 72, (Issue number 56) of the January 2012 magazine
WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE
 
Many family history societies cover whole counties orregions, but there are also quite a few which are very much more local in their
scope. One of those is the Burntwood Family History Group in south Staffordshire. Burntwood, about halfway between Lichfield and Cannock, is a former mining community which has grown very rapidly in recent years with new residential estates. Just to the north are the ancient wooded landscapes of Cannock Chase – indeed, part of the community is called Chasetown - and to the south-west lie
Walsall and the edge of the Birmingham conurbation.
 
The group was founded in 1986 and now has over a hundred members – and a very attractive an award winning website. It has been very active with research projects (one that caught my eye involved school admission registers, an often neglected source for family history) but one of its current research topics has a special significance. In less than three years we’ll be marking the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, and over the next few years many family historians will be thinking about forebears who died in that
terrible conflict. The aim of the Burntwood FHG is to undertake detailed investigation of all the men whose names appear on the war memorials in Chasetown Memorial Park and elsewhere in the Burntwood area, including the lives which were lost in the Second World War. The results of the research will be presented as ‘mini-biographies’ on the group’s website, which includes excellent photographs and full information about the serviceman.
 
The work is ‘in progress’, with a team of thirteen assiduous volunteers steadily compiling the biographies, with the help of other members of the group and of the families of the men in question. So far there are seven complete biographies on-line, with over 50 more being researched. The biographies are impressive examples of high quality investigation and how to put it together. They trace family lines back into the early nineteenth century (Michael Geraghty’s family are followed back to a baptism in County Roscommon in 1858, no mean achievement in itself), and include complete census entries, details of employment and working life, full military service record, and medical information if available. There are explanations of the battle or action in which the soldier died, something which, given the complexity and confusion of the war in France and Belgium, is often difficult to grasp – but the explanations given here are really clear and easy to understand. And, sadly, there are of course comprehensive details of where the soldier’s remains or memorial now lie, including background descriptions of the cemetery or monument.
 
Over the coming years many societies will be contemplating similar projects – the Burntwood Family History Group provides a model of how to go about it, and how to present the information on-line. And the site itself is well worth a visit to show the range and variety of resources which a family history society can investigate and present on-line.
 
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