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The interest in the history of one’s place of residence is growing fast, both in its own right and as
part of the great increase in family history, for many people researching their family history are now
keen to look at the local context within which their direct ancestors once lived.
Much of the work currently being done on village histories is undertaken by individual researchers,
for their own satisfaction. But they often share their findings with others, especially through
websites. But increasingly small village groups are being formed to look together at different topics,
to meet together and encourage each other, to arrange small exhibitions of their findings, to
publish books and booklets (which occasions have attracted the attention of national historians, for
national history is in part made up of all the many local histories), to give talks to other villagers and
generally to involve the community in the project.
And there are many advantages of forming such a group. For one thing, a group will have wider and
deeper insights to bring to the evidence being collected. Discussing the material found often
throws more light on the interpretation given to the sources.
For another thing, one member of the group may be free to visit record offices or museums and
other sites at a time when other members are not so free. More ground can be covered (often in a
literal sense) by a group sharing the work than by individual researchers.
But there is another reason for encouraging local history groups. The more people become
interested in the past of their own community, the more they come to share its values and to
promote its conservation – not preservation as in a museum but controlled and directed change
and development. Villages with active local history groups almost always have other voluntary groups working for the betterment of their
inhabitants – more than those where such a group does not exist. And although it is not the only way, local history is one of the best ways to
start forming such groups.
The Local History pages on website then is intended to encourage new groups to commence work by showing them some of the findings of
existing groups; it is intended to help existing and new groups to engage in their work more effectively, taking into account the findings in other
villages and in the wider history of the county and the country.
Village groups which find themselves wishing to know more about this may consult the book:
Group Projects in Local History which lists ten possible projects village groups can start with, ranging from the medieval period to modern oral
history and suggests sources to look at and how to work as a group, as well as how to write up the findings.
Village History in Rutland