British Library to host First World War family roadshow

Carol Smith, from Selby, Eleanor Kenny, from the Europeana Archive, and Jeanette Payne, from Leeds, look at an autograph book containing the signatures of wounded servicemen obtained by Carol’s maternal grandmother as she worked as a nurse during the wa

Carol Smith, from Selby, Eleanor Kenny, from the Europeana Archive, and Jeanette Payne, from Leeds, look at an autograph book containing the signatures of wounded servicemen obtained by Carol’s maternal grandmother as she worked as a nurse during the wa

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DESCENDANTS of First World War soldiers are being invited to an Antiques Roadshow-style event at the British Library near Boston Spa next month.

The World War One Family History Roadshow in the Library's newly-refurbished Reading Room will give people the chance to share their grandfather or great-grandfather's war diaries, letters, photographs and other memorabilia with the world, via the Internet.

The Library has joined forces with Europeana – Europe’s digital museum, library and archive -to gather and tell family stories from 1914-1918.

Historians and experts from the York Museums Trust, Lancaster University and local history societies will be on hand to talk about the significance of finds, while Library staff will professionally digitise the objects for uploading to the dedicated Europeana 1914-1918 website, www.europeana1914-1918.eu.

A Europeana spokeswoman said it had been holding such roadshows in more than 20 countries across Europe in the lead up to the Centenary of the start of the war.

Executive director Jill Cousins said: "Through our roadshows, the grandchildren, other family members and friends who inherited these memorabilia have the opportunity to share pieces of history that might otherwise just be collecting dust in their attics. And through digitisation, they can preserve them for future generations as records of a defining time in European history."

At a press conference about the roadshow, held at York's Castle Museum yesterday, Jeanette Payne told how she had only found the First World War diary of her great-grandfather John Henry Fisher three weeks ago, after a conversation about family with her mother.

John, who was sent to the barracks in Fulford Road, York, after being called up, recounted the monotony and dangers of his day-to-day life in the diary.

Carol Smith, from Selby, told how both of her grandfathers, John Richard Ford and Thomas Wright Burnet, fought in and survived the trenches of the Western Front .Memorabilia from both men are on display at the Castle Museum.

The British Library said it had already digitised 10,000 items related to the First World War from its print collections, including personal diaries, trench maps, printed books, poetry, literary manuscripts, photographs and music scores.

*The roadshow runs from 11am to 5 pm on Saturday August 2 at the British Library, on the Thorp Arch Trading Estate near Boston Spa, with people invited just to turn up with their memorabilia.

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