Tomorrow I am venturing to London Town for the first time in a long time. Sometimes I think that I must have dreamt living there for ten years of my life as it seems so far removed from my current existence. Actually, it is probably that I drank and partied away ten years, if I am being honest. I did work very hard but pre children, one could also party hard with little discernible effect...
Anyway, I am off to London to see Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies at the theatre. A lot of theatre in one day but it was the only way to see both plays (And by the way, if by some miracle Hilary Mantel should read this small and insignificant blog, please please please Hilary, hurry up with the third book of the trilogy!).
Preparing to go today, I realised that the last time I had been to London was to visit the National Archives (NA) for research. It was a fascinating visit and I cannot recommend a visit highly enough if you are able to get there and have found things online that it would be worth you checking out for your own research.
My own visit came about because I stumbled upon a wonderful website run by an historian named Carole Divall (actually called www.caroledivall.co.uk funnily enough!). The 30th Regiment of Foot is Carole's particular interest and she has written a fascinating and ongoing online diary of the Napoleonic years in its existence. I had been searching for information about that regiment as the original adventurer to India from my own family, Joseph Shaller, had enlisted with it. I then decided to read Carole's fabulous book, Inside the Regiment, about the daily life of the 30th Foot - postings, family life, education, discipline and so on. It looks at the battalions in both Europe and India.
So I was reading the book and suddenly Joseph's name leapt out at me from a page! Carole had used him as an example of how the soldiers were encouraged to write basic Wills to ensure that any monies due to them were passed to their children. She detailed Joseph's bequests and noted that he had left everything to his three children. She also stated that she had seen the Will and that all three had signed it to confirm receipt!
It was an amazing moment for me as it confirmed a sibling name that I had been pondering over but more importantly, there was a document available to see and touch which had been in India and had been signed by my great great great grandfather in 1822.
So that was it. I was determined to find it! Except that I had no idea how to go about seeing the paper for myself. Then Carole Divall very kindly replied to a post on her site, explained how to find the Will at the NA and also gave me some further information. I read up on the NA rules and regulations on its website (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/) and off I went, filled with trepidation.
Sometimes I think we are frightened of places like the NA. They seem so quiet and serious and quite beyond the reach of "ordinary" people. However, the whole experience was fantastic (if you like that sort of thing - and frankly if you don't, I am surprised that you have read this far as I wax lyrical!). It is easy to find, easy to use and the staff could not be more helpful. There are some incredible documents available and they detail quite normal lives - they are not all the Magna Carta or Cabinet papers or such like!
I was able to view the Will and touch my 3xgreat grandfather's signature. I also saw enlistment rolls and documents relating to other family tree brick walls. Sadly, the pictures I took are on a defunct phone so unless I can retrieve them, I am going to have to visit again. Do let me know if I can help you with anything while I am there.... any excuse for another day...