Research

Do you want to know where the bodies are buried?


Then you have come to the right place. I can help you pinpoint your ancestors, provide compelling background for a book or TV programme, and lend a hand with the finishing touches to an academic project.

 

I specialise in the following topics:

 

  • Political and diplomatic history – the great affairs of state, the minor scandals which can so illuminate a period in history, and Britain’s relations with the world;
  • Social history – how did people live and work. I am particularly interested in crime, philanthropy and poverty, as well as food and drink, particularly beer and pubs;
  • Military history- particularly the two world wars, aviation and the Victorian period;
  • Family history research – soldiers, sailors, airmen, candlestick makers (and other occupations), princes and paupers;
  • Photographing documents so you can use them at home. It's just like being in London's archives without the hassle of actually going there.  

 

But there is very little I can’t turn my hand to. Recent research projects have included:

 

  • Helping the official historian of the Open University go through files at The National Archives and the BBC Written Archives Centre on the early history of the University. This proved to be a unique insight into how government worked in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • War diaries – I've spent a lot of time looking at the war diaries of the two world wars for clients who want to know more about what their ancestors did. I have found some fascinating stories - the man who was wounded by our own artillery within 24 hours of reaching the frontline, the officer discharged, in part, for being a bad influence on his men, and the chatty war diary of the Irish Guards during the Normandy campaign;
  • Research for a client in the vast visual holdings of The National Archives finding images for a series of document packs. Because I knew the records intimately I was able to go directly to the most interesting resources. 
  • The maps of David Thompson who almost single-handed mapped great chunks of the Canadian North West and the Oregon territories two hundred years ago. The National Archives has a surprising number of his maps (plus many plaintive pleas for a pension when he reached old age).  To me the highlight was finding the detailed expenses he submitted for an expedition of 1818 which itemised every item down to a small phial of essence of peppermint in case of indigestion.
  • At present I am researching survivors' reports from merchant ships which were lost in the mid-Atlantic during the Second World War
  • Various soldiers and sailors for their descendents, including two separate enquiries about the same man. Recently I spent a happy day at the Royal Artillery Archives in Woolwich going through papers trying to find how exactly a Gunner was killed during the battle of Kohima in 1944.
  • A researcher working on a Heston Blumenthal TV programme asked when the word carvery entereed the English langauage.  I found the word in a 1960 newspaper, two years before the Oxford English Dictionary first identified the word.

 

Much of my work involves copying documents for clients, such as Operation Record Books, Admiralty instruction manuals and Prime Minister's Office papers. The quality of the images are good enough to read. I like to use the DropBox cloud sharing software to share images with clients, but I can alwasys send images on disc or print them out.

 

I have a lifetime’s familiarity with The National Archives, British Library, London Library, Society of Genealogists and other major (and minor) archives and libraries in London, Oxford and Cambridge and can travel easily to other places in the South East.

 

My fees are £30 per hour or £150 per day (£32/£160 if you pay by PayPal to cover their fees), including travel in London. Best of all I live just ten minutes walk from The National Archives.

Use the contact form for an initial quote. The more information you give the easier it will be for me to give you an estimate. Once I know what you want, I will prepare a clear proposal, explaining what I hope to find out, how long it might take and how much it might cost. For longer projects we may need to agree a budget limit. 

 

However there is a glitch with the form.  You may receive a bounceback notice.  If so ignore it.  I will have received your details and will endeavour to contact you within 24 hours of receiving it.  The other slight problem is that the form doesn't like short names, like Ian Hay so just add xs or whatever.  Computers eh, can't live with them...

 

I’m good, very good indeed, but not that good. But there will be occasions when I can’t find what clients are looking for. I endeavour to conduct diligent, honest and efficient searches and I have to ask you to indicate your agreement to paying the fee regardless of whether or not I produce the outcome you were expecting.

 

I ask that payment be made up front, although for large jobs I am happy to receive to half the money at the beginning with half paid at the end of the project. I accept cheques (made payable to Penwinet Associates Ltd), bank transfers, or PayPal. Its generally easier for overseas cients to use PayPal, just click the button:

 

Hours' research

 

 

You will receive a detailed report about what I have found and the sources used to find it, as well as copies of the relevant documents.