Delving into history brings a community together

The research room in action

The research room in action

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DELVING into the past of your town or village can bring up shocks and surprises - but also make a community a more close-knit and vibrant place to be.

Rural Action Yorkshire’s (RAY)new campaign to inspire rural communities to try their hands at new activities, 52 (Almost) Painless Things Your Community Can Do, is encouraging people to start a local history group.

Ryedale Family History Group

Ryedale Family History Group

RAY has highlighted the success of a group in Ryedale, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, as a great example of how history groups can reinvigorate the whole community through setting up a research base where residents can trace their family trees and also the history of their area and surrounding villages.

Janice Wood, a volunteer who was involved in the original planning of Ryedale Family History Group ten years ago, said they were astonished at the group’s appeal.

She said: “We advertised a meeting back in 2005, across Ryedale for people to attend and let us know if they were interested in the idea. 40 people turned up! From there we were able to float for a while from place to place, before we were offered some spare council office space. We were later offered the room in Hovingham Village Hall, and we have held our weekly Research Room there ever since.”

Within the 52 Things campaign, of which starting a group is number 11, communities can request help and support from RAY in getting their project started. They are able to draw on the experience of others before them, such as Janice and her colleagues in Ryedale.

One of the many photgraphs sent to Ryedale Family History Group in the hope someone might identify the people in it.

One of the many photgraphs sent to Ryedale Family History Group in the hope someone might identify the people in it.

The Ryedale group has received several pots of funding over the years, originally from the Kirkbymoorside Local History Group to enable them to set up their website, but also from the Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All enabling them to purchase equipment, website accounts and office space.

Later, a suggestion came from Ryedale Voluntary Action to apply to the Lottery’s Heritage Fund so that they could run some extra projects for the area. One of these would be to produce history books on the soldiers who are remembered in the local war memorials, and another would be to digitalise parish records and old microfilms.

The group were successful in their bid to the Lottery and were awarded £47,000 to carry out their projects. They were able to advertise for volunteers and received an incredible response.

“At our peak we had 53 volunteers in total from all over the world, including New Zealand,” Janice said.

The presentation of the Helmsley War Memorial book.''Pictured, from left: 'Geoff Otterburn, secretary of the Ryedale Damily History Group; 'Rev Tim Robinson, vicar of Helmsley''Peter Braithwaite, chairman of the Group and Jake Duncombe

The presentation of the Helmsley War Memorial book.''Pictured, from left: 'Geoff Otterburn, secretary of the Ryedale Damily History Group; 'Rev Tim Robinson, vicar of Helmsley''Peter Braithwaite, chairman of the Group and Jake Duncombe

“Transcribing and digitalising records is a process that requires a lot of hard work and patience, and we have been overwhelmed with the enthusiasm of everyone involved.”

Leah Swain, chief officer of Rural Action Yorkshire said: “What has become clear through the 52 Things campaign so far, and through talking to volunteers, is that action inspires action.

“Even though time and dedication is needed, projects are successful in bringing people together, creating a spark, raising funds and reinforcing community spirit.”

For more information on the campaign, visit RAY’s website www.ruralyorkshire.org.uk/52-things-campaign

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