Friday, 22 April 2011

Copy-editing for an undergraduate student

The genealogy is on hold at the moment, as I have been asked to copy-edit an undergraduate’s dissertation. This will require some degree of urgency and application to meet the deadline, but it will be completed, on that my client may depend. For the past three years he has been studying civil engineering, a subject about which I know nothing. This is not the problem some might think, as the brief is to run my eye over the grammar, style and clarity of the piece – I certainly won’t be tempted to meddle with the content! 

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Identifying 'lost' nineteenth-century London streets

I have made further progress with my current genealogical research project, mainly in connection with pinpointing exactly where the various branches of my client’s family lived in East London in the mid- and late nineteenth century. I have been surprised at how difficult this has been, even with numerous London street directories from the time readily to hand: I wonder if there is a handy and comprehensive modern volume recording the changes to London’s street names, dates of clearance and demolition, and also wartime destruction? Eventually, I managed to find what I was looking for by poring over the 1867–70 OS maps at the London Metropolitan Archives with a magnifying glass; not a frivolous exercise by any means, as one can distinguish the various buildings where my client’s family lived, and copies of the relevant sections of these maps will hopefully make the walking tour I am planning for him that much easier to organise.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Poplar High Street in the 1920s and 1930s

I do voluntary work at Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives, and try to get in for a couple of hours once a week. Managed to do so today, and catalogued part of a box of the extensive photographic collection of street scenes. The particular box I was working through mainly consisted of very evocative photographs of Poplar High Street from the 1920s and 1930s. Notes and annotations on many of the prints indicate that they were part of the Whiffin Photographic Collection. Information about this collection is at present somewhat scant, although a brief reference found on the net indicates that Whiffin’s Studio was actually based locally, at 237 East India Road, Poplar. Doubtless the staff at THLHLA would have more information about Whiffin’s Studio and the provenance of the collection: I must remember to ask next time.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Interesting connection with Israel Zangwill

Some excitement recently in connection with the genealogical research I am undertaking for my New York client. It has transpired that a great uncle of his, one Nathaniel Cooper, worked with the future author Israel Zangwill at the Jews’ Free School in Bell Lane, Spitalfields. The two were educated at the School, and went on to teach there in the 1880s; as almost exact contemporaries – Nathaniel was born in Whitechapel on 29 April 1864, Zangwill on 21 January 1864 – they surely knew each other.
On discovering the connection, I immediately checked the National Register of Archives to see where Zangwill’s papers are located. It was no surprise to find that there is a significant deposit of papers (including some of his brother Louis) among the Jewish collections at Southampton University Library: MSS 294–5, to be exact. Further investigation of the University’s online catalogue revealed that MS 294 includes some material relating to Zangwill’s early life and education at the Jews’ Free School (and MS 153 contains some early minutes and papers of the School itself). Zangwill’s papers might conceivably shed oblique light on Nathaniel’s formative education and early working life as a youthful ‘pupil teacher’ (as he – and Zangwill – is described on the 1881 census) at the JFS, and in an ideal world I would undertake a research trip to Southampton to consult them, but this, alas, is not an ideal world and time will not permit …
It is interesting to speculate if Nathaniel and Zangwill were on friendly terms, and if so, whether they maintained personal contact in later life. Zangwill’s literary celebrity – considerable in his day – remains to some extent, but Nathaniel pursued a more humble path, working as a schoolmaster, at the JFS until at least the late 1890s and then in Ilford. I have yet to establish the school at which he taught in Ilford; perhaps that could be my next project.