Earning my beads


This summer I went, for the first time, to search for family info in an Archivists’ Office.

This was part of a visit to Devon which I’d spent months working towards in my spare time. I’d worked out what I knew, what I needed to know and where I should be able to find it. Who Do You Think You Are Magazine had also published a feature in June about tracing Devon family which was really helpful, and fantastic timing. Up until this year I’d used only Scottish records so this was uncharted territory for me.

Devon’s records are split between Plymouth, Exeter and Barnstaple. It was the Plymouth & West Devon Records Office [PWDRO] which I visited as it was closest to Penzance (where I was staying). It was also where my grandfather’s family lived for many generations.

I’d imagined a dusty treasure trove with vaulted ceilings and gothic arches, so was totally disconcerted to find a light modern office in a business park. I’d booked a seat and was there when it opened, but apparently a sunny summer holiday morning is not the busy time and there were plenty of desks. Go figure.

The PWDRO had their own indexes for the local records which gave me new data, and having access to the FindMyPast website was really helpful.

But that wasn’t what made me really chuffed. When I was given a Coroner’s Report I was also handed a string of bead-like weights to hold it open whilst I made notes. I felt so professional! Well, you know what they say about simple things….

The staff there were great, and suggested additional useful local records. They were really patient with my (many) questions. I know it’s their job, but levels of professionalism and service vary in any sector and I was really happy how they were so helpful with what were probably very basic queries.

Hopefully I’ll get back again so will have to think up more random Devon questions to test them!

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