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Saturday, 11 March 2017

Bag it, tag it, record it... A Gulliver project update

This week has been all about trying to bring some order to a random assortment of papers. Clearly, I needed to find some way of cataloguing them.  So I came up with the following categories:

  • Family correspondence
  • Family events and celebrations
  • Postcards
  • Employment related
  • Education and school
  • Health related
  • Housing and utilities
  • Military service
  • ID documents
  • Finance, pensions and benefits
  • Photos
  • Miscellaneous

Each document gets scrutinised, put in a plastic folder (not archive quality I'm afraid - I have to economise somewhere!) and given a reference number.  It's then entered on a spreadsheet with its reference number and a brief description.  It seemed like a reasonable compromise between handing over a Tesco bag full of mouldy documents and trying to recreate my own version of a National Archives catalogue.  At the moment, my table is starting to get covered, like this...


I've logged about 60 documents so far.  They include things such as National Identity cards, rent books, a book of postcards from Algeria and an officially issued wartime notebook with handwritten guidance about operating switchboards and orders to burn everything if the Signals Office is in danger of being captured...



A lot of documents relate to financial security, or the lack of it - insurance contributions cards for health and pensions, savings clubs, Co-ops etc - and reflect the fragmented nature of welfare provision before the Welfare State.  It struck me that this was a family in reasonably secure employment who could afford some measure of cover for illness and hard times - not everyone could.

I have been reflecting on what I can share on this blog.  I'm aware that there is an ethical responsibility - this is not my family and I do not have permission to share their personal stories in any great detail, particularly as some of the people in the documents may still be alive.  I won't be sharing life stories or contents of letters, though I will need to provide names and areas of residence as a potential aid to tracking them down.

This doesn't mean I can't share some things which have a broader interest as I work my way through the pile.  In the first week, perhaps the most interesting find was a report from Reuters about the last British newspaper journalists leaving Berlin ahead of World War Two.  It's dated 25th August 1939, exactly a week before the war began with the German invasion of Poland.


  
Reuters report
This seemed to have an importance beyond family history and I felt I had a responsibility to see it safely transferred to an archive.  I'm pleased to report that I've been in contact with John Entwisle at The Reuters Archive and the document is now on its way to him.

Reuters centenary celebration

John was also interested in other Reuters-related documents that I might find among the papers.  For the moment though I think my priority is to try to reunite them with the family.  The decision of whether to pass them on can then be theirs.

I would imagine, for example, that Mr and Mrs Gulliver would have been quite proud to attend this Reuters Centenary event.  I had no idea who Christopher Chancellor was but a quick Google revealed that he was a British journalist who became General Manager of Reuters from 1944 to 1959 and was credited with keeping the company intact despite the challenging circumstances of the war.  So perhaps the Gulliver family might want to keep this?

If you have any comments or questions about the papers, please feel free to add them below.  For my next post I'm going to write something about the Coronation...














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