About Helena

I’m a genealogist, oral historian, historical researcher and heritage creative practitioner based in north west England.

In 2019 I completed a Masters degree in Local History with the Open University, following on from gaining my Postgraduate Diploma in History with Distinction in 2018. My dissertation explored changes to small-scale farming in Haslingden, Lancashire brought about by the Industrial Revolution, focusing on the lives of the Woods farming family from 1837 to 1888. In 2015 I gained a first-class honours degree in Humanities with Creative Writing and Art History, again from the Open University.

From October 2018 I’ve administered the Fell Foot Park Oral History Project as part of a two-year project focusing on the recent social history of the property as a caravan, camping and chalet site from the 1940s to the 1990s. The project will culminate in an exhibition and visitor interpretation in October 2020. During 2020 I’m also administering the Steam Yacht Gondola Oral History Project, part of celebrations surrounding 40 years since the yacht’s restoration.

During 2017 I worked via tender with the programming team at Lakeland Arts developing scripts and voice recordings for four augmented realities as part of the Blackwell Project at Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts House, Bowness-on-Windermere. My research centred on the Holt family and their interaction with Blackwell as a holiday home.

In May 2017 I was awarded postgraduate funding from the Open University’s Crowther Fund to fund a year long study project about aspects of the Industrial Revolution in the Scottish Borders. In addition to my research, I participated in letterpress workshops at Robert Smail’s Printworks in Innerleithen. This culminated in a piece of my letterpress artwork being accepted for display at the Remembrance 100 exhibition in Carlisle during the summer of 2018.

I’m a member of the Oral History Society, British Association for Local History, Economic History Society, British Agricultural History Society, Ambleside Oral History Group and a Friend of the Regional History Centre at Lancaster University. I’m a shareholder in Farfield Mill Community Benefit Society, based in Sedbergh.

Family History

I’ve been carrying out genealogical research for over twenty years.

My interest began when, as a child, my paternal grandmother showed me original civil registration certificates dating from the 1870s and 1880s that were kept in a tin alongside a scrap of paper with the birth times and dates of other relatives. I now store these in archive conditions alongside other precious items from both sides of my family.

I spent many hours in the pre-internet era at county archives and Mormon research centres reeling through microfilms searching for a name that might take me one step further in locating a birth, marriage or death of a relative. I loved that buzz of excitement involved in tracking my family back another generation, linking to an ever expanding network of great grandparents, distant cousins, aunts and uncles.

In the early days of the internet I spent holidays meeting third and fourth cousins from Lancashire to Cornwall. I also interacted with many excited people overseas who had picked up erroneous relatives in their efforts to find their way through the maze of people who lived in the past and who may have been connected to them. I realised the importance of not taking what others told her at face value, of checking and double checking finds before reaching the conclusion that a person was “mine”. My love of logic puzzles helped in solving problems when there were two or more candidates for an ancestor.

As I began carrying out research for friends and acquaintances, I knew then that it wasn’t only research into my own family that filled me with excitement. The huge array of people who lived, worked, married and had their own families hundreds of years ago were equally fascinating.

Through my MA in English Local History, I learnt more about the lives of ordinary people from 1750 – 1900, broadening my knowledge of families, industrialisation, farming, religion, crime, poverty and urban development during that era. This enables me to look at the bigger picture of the times in which our ancestors lived, and has enhanced my research experience. I’ve now traced many branches of my own family tree to the 17th century.

If you’d like to get in touch with me to discuss researching your family history, please use the contact form in the first instance.