I’m currently involved with the Moseley Churchyard Heritage Project leading a team of volunteers who are undertaking a survey of the remaining gravestones, recording the inscriptions, making a photographic record and researching about the lives of those commemorated on the stones. Some of the names are familiar ones (at least around Birmingham) such as Joseph Lucas of Lucas Industries and Horatio Nelson Grimley, founding father of Grimley JR Eve property agents. But others, who may well have been important local figures in the Moseley community in their day, are less well remembered. So how do we go about researching them?
Well with the information from the inscriptions we can follow up all the usual genealogical sources such as births, marriages and deaths and census entries and maybe that will throw up a few more avenues of research including listings in electoral registers or street directories. And we can hope to strike lucky with searches of online newspapers via the British newspaper archive or the the London Gazette. But an often overlooked contemporary source are magazines, journals, books and other publications written whilst the subject of our enquiry whilst they were still alive or were at least in living memory of the writers. But finding these can be a bit of an effort (unless they happen to have digitised by Google Books or the the Internet Archive. How will you know without looking through dozens of issues whether they were written about in the Edgbastonian or the Moseley & Kings Heath Journal whether anything was written about them at all?
Well, help is at hand in the form of biographical indexes compiled over a hundred of years ago when librarians obviously had a lot more time on their hands than these days (or maybe there were just more staff & less customers?) One of these held at the Library of Birmingham is the “Index to Biographical and Personal Notices which have appeared in Volumes and Local Periodicals Filed in the Central Reference Library of Birmingham to the End of the Year 1914” compiled by C J Woodward. It consists of two volumes and they live on the Quick Reference set of shelves so easily accessible. All you have to do is look up the name of the person of interest and if you find an entry it will give you brief and slightly incomprehensible details at first glance. So searching on George Frederick Lyndon, the incumbent of one of the largest memorials on the South side of the church I found an entry which read:
M II 123
FF I No. 336
P 71 1907
What you then do is turn to the pages at the front of the first volume and translate the codes into the name of the publication and this will be accompanied by an accession number – and these can still be used by staff in the know to track down the most obscure items if they do not appear in the computerised library catalogue.
So checking the codes for my Lyndon entries I end up with the following:
CP 149 Midland Captains of Industry 217842
M II 123 Moseley Society Journal
FF I No. 336 Familiar Figures from Evening Despatch 1888
P 71 1907 Pike: Birmingham at Opening of 20th Century 185889
I’ve now filled out my request slips and hopefully next time I go in to the Heritage Research Area I should be able to peruse these items at my leisure and learn everything there ever was to know about George Frederick Lyndon……
In fact I’ve already looked at the Moseley Society Journal for April 1895 Vol 2 No. 15 and discovered a phot0graph of him plus a 3 page character sketch of this businessman, local councillor and one-time occupant of the Henburys, an important house no longer standing in what is now Highbury Park.
There are several other indexes that are worth looking at in a similar way including one for local artists and there is also a large collection of biographical newscuttings which are also indexed and always worth checking. And these type of indexes and collections exist not only in Birmingham but also in local studies libraries elsewhere. So do make the effort to seek them out as they could lead you to some great finds – or at the very least stop you wasting too much time on fruitless searches in the ‘wrong’ publications.