Exploring Hidden Histories: Researching your Subject

So if I'm going to produce something about a history that's hidden.. how am I going to find it?! The first step is to find out what information may already exist; and what 'sources' you might use to find out more.

Jump to:    Online Research   Real People  Offline Research   'Not-so-Hidden' Histories

Online Research

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Google Search

Google Search is a useful starting point in identifying leads for more in depth research - which will need other tools (below). Try different keywords, combinations and filters (eg. UK / Wales results); advanced, image and scholar searches. Save useful links in 1 place!

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People's Collection Wales

PCW is Wales' 'virtual museum' where you can search photographs, recordings and documents from projects across the heritage sector. PCW offer support and training for digitisation of collections, and for community projects on the culture and heritage of Wales.

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Welsh Newspapers Online

This National Library of Wales resource lets you search and access over 1 million pages from 120 newspapers and publications between 1860s and 1919 (including WW1).

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Family History & Geneology Tools

There are a range of online communities accessing thousands of databases with billions of records; some require manual searching, while subscription services can find transcribed records for you 

GENUKI (free)     Ancestry.co.uk (subscription)     BBC Family History Guidance

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Fallen Soldiers

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission database records every military and service person to have died in conflicts under the flags of the UK and Commonwealth nations - including the fallen of WW1 & WW2 - along with fully searchable details of resting places and memorials.

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Conscientious Objectors

The Pearce Register on WCIA's 'Peace Map' is a searchable database of all known First World War Conscientious Objectors from Wales and the border counties, developed in partnership between Wales for Peace and University of Leeds Research Fellow Cyril Pearce.

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Finding Real People!

Jill Gough CND by Lee Karen StowThis is maybe the most exciting ingredient for a hidden history: what sort of people might be around today who can tell you more - who  could you interview to bring your Hidden History to life? No-one from WW1 remains alive today - but might your grandparents remember their own families' stories? Or are you exploring a topic or story that is more recent - who might have been involved? Ask around! Think about people in:
  • your local community
  • retirement homes, community groups or social clubs
  • current members of campaigning branches / groups
  • volunteers or staff of relevant organisations / places 
  • family members or descendents of individuals
Jill Gough (right) has been actively involved in CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) since the 1960s. She was interviewed by Lee Karen Stow for WCIA's Women, War and Peace project.

Offline Research

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Local Libraries & National Library

County libraries - as well as school, college and university libraries - are a rich source for books and loans, as well as local archive materials. The National Library of Wales have copies of every book ever published, as well as extensive historical archives.

Your local Library    National Library Archives
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Local Archives & Records Offices

These hold information ranging from census data, birth marriage & death certificates and maps to local newspapers and photographs. Archives Wales' catalogue highlights many collections - or perhaps you can organise a visit to explore your local archive?

Your local Archive   Archives Wales Search 
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Searching Publications

What information been published on your topic before - books, academic journals, articles, magazine features or other literature? From a huge range of sources, you will need to be critical of quality and perspective: This 'Information Skills' guide may help.

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Museum Displays & 'On Location'

You could visit a exhibition or location of particular relevance to your story to deepen your understanding of a subject, or of events that happened there - for example visiting Flanders Fields, the National Museum of Wales or Bradford Peace Museum.

Welsh Museums, Community & Heritage Centres

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Cenotaphs and Memorials

Schools or community groups may find it helpful to visit and work from local war or peace memorials, often inscribed with names or accompanied by interpretation explaining their origins and significance at the time.

Memorial Listings     'Wales at War' Links
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Public Events

What activities are organisations offering - could you participate in an educational workshop, editathon, debate, or attend and record (or even arrange) a talk from an expert in your chosen topic?

Cymru'n Cofio Event Listings     WCIA Event listings     Individual Museums

'Not-so-Hidden' Histories?

You may find that the topic or person you've chosen is already well known (for example, Hedd Wyn or David Lloyd George) - in which case, is it still a 'hidden' history? You could consider ways around this:
  • Is their story primarily known in circles that you can 'go beyond' - for example, a local figure who is not well known nationally, a Welsh language figure about whom little is written in English, or an international figure whose Welsh background hasn't been explored?
  • Existing material might be written mostly from one perspective - could your Hidden History present a different perspective? For example, soldiers' stories often focus on their military role - but who ere they, what did they do before they signed up?
  • Could you focus on people who were close or affected by their actions? For example, if someone is well known because they were imprisoned for protesting - how did their family and friends support them?
  • Could you create a 'feature article' or multimedia piece instead, which draws together different perspectives and links from existing materials - for example, about how different Welsh communities have supported refugees fleeing war in Syria?

Hedd Wyn (right) was a Welsh poet in World War One who was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele, weeks before he was to be crowned as the winning poet of the National Eisteddfod. His prize, a carved chair, was draped in a shroud and as the 'Black Chair,' went down in Welsh legend as a story symbolic of a whole lost generation of 35,000 young Welshmen - of whom his story is one.   

As you're researchng, start thinking about what you're going to Record >>

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