Sunday, 13 March 2011

Professional researchers (written September 1999)

One of the surprising things about the special collections here at the Society is the amount of information they can tell you about the person who created the material. If you give your genealogical papers to the SoG you may never know what they might say about you. It may show in the way that the collections were kept.
The JONES B Collection was compiled by Dr Robert Jones, a retired schoolmaster from Croydon during the 1980s: a man seemingly of almost superhuman neatness and discipline which shone through very clearly in the neat and tidy way he kept and sorted the material acquired during the course of his researches into his JONES, HIGGENS, KEDDIE, REYNALDS, and THOMSON ancestors in England, Canada and New Zealand.
For other people their personality shines through in correspondence that survives in the collections. This is perhaps more true for record agents or professional researchers for they spend a lot of time writing to clients.
This week I have been spending much of my time sorting out what will become the DEVEY Collection. Gerald Devey, whose papers these are, was a record agent based in Exeter. The collection consists of his notes and correspondence relating to about 150 Cornish, and especially Devonian, families which he researched in the early 1970s. It includes a large number of letters to clients in which he talks, generally in passing, about what is going on in his life. Usually, it has to be admitted, these events are used to justify delays in undertaking research. All in all they build a picture of a busy, but perhaps rather a lonely man especially after the deaths of his wife and sister. He also becomes reluctant to drive to distant record offices as a result of problems with his eyes. On the other he manages to get to Gibraltar to go research in the archives there which he really enjoys.
Another surprisingly useful source is the scrap paper on which people use to scribble notes. Robert Jones tended to use old science exam papers which confirmed his status as a teacher. Gerald Devey's preferred choice was the headed notepaper of the South-West Special Circle of the Institute of Electrical Engineers of which he appears to have been secretary at some stage. It does not take much deduction to reason that Devey was an electrical engineer before he retired. There is further evidence in that Gerald Devey often used engineering drawings prepared for the Post Office for his notes, thus suggesting that he was a Post Office engineer at least for the latter part of his working life. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I too have come across Gerald Devey and have included some of his work on He worked with another local historian, Norman Tildesley, whose work I am archiving