My Study of Micklethwaites wasn’t planned – once it started, it grew of its own accord. I had (and still have) a huge brickwall with my great great grandfather, John Micklethwaite, who died in 1849 aged 44 in a cholera outbreak in Huddersfield, Yorkshire. I couldn’t (and still can’t) find a baptism for him, so I expanded my search area. My initial searches found five possibilities for him, and the Study has eliminated just two of them. But the Study had started growing, and 12 years later it has now gone worldwide.
Over the years, several fellow researchers have individually come to see me. About two-and-a-half years ago, I was contacted by someone in Barnsley, Yorkshire (the ancestral home of Micklethwaites). His wife (a Micklethwaite) and her brother wanted to meet me, but they weren’t well enough to travel far (he has sadly died). So my contact arranged for us to meet for lunch at the Ardsley House Hotel just outside Barnsley. The location was chosen because it was the home of the Micklethwaits of Ardsley for many generations.
I had been wondering for some years about some sort of reunion/meeting. My thoughts had somehow turned towards a seminar, with various people talking about various aspects of our families’ history. However, my own ill-health meant that I could no longer contemplate arranging that sort of event.
Then we had a discussion at the Derbyshire regional meeting of the GOONS. Siann (who runs the Hurt Study) talked of her “reunions” where she had laid out all her research for visitors to peruse. Again, this sort of event was beyond me, but it opened my mind to other possibilities.
Then I remembered the lunch in Ardsley. If we all met for lunch, then I wouldn’t have much organising to do. What I forgot to think about was how stressful being interviewed by local radio can be, even if it is by telephone, and how many people would want to tap into my research. By this time I was producing a newsletter about the Micklethwait(e)s which I circulated to my contacts, so the proposed lunchtime meeting was announced there, as well as on local radio and in newspapers.
So that’s what we’ve done for the last 3 years. We’ve met in Dodworth, near Barnsley, which is about as close as possible to the “ancestral home”, the settlement once called Micklethwaite which is the one most of the Micklethwaite branches appear to be named after. The venue has a carvery for lunch and a sitting/drinking area for afterwards. Some people come for lunch (we had 21 this year, the best yet), some just for the drinking and nattering. The first year, more than a dozen people just turned up for a natter because they had heard about it on local radio – that was fantastic as I got to know how they fitted into the various branches. This year, the novelty has worn off and we didn’t get any media coverage, but someone brought me a family Bible to look at, and that disclosed something I didn’t know about. Earlier this year, I had reunited a photo album with another family (see https://andymick.wordpress.com/2015/06/28/a-photo-album/) – they came too.
Will I do another? I don’t honestly know – I’m not getting any younger or fitter! Everyone seems to enjoy them but I do find them exhausting. I get into discussions with people about their branches, with usually two or more wanting information at the same time! Perhaps a venue where we could have our own space and display the trees might be less stressful. Who knows what the future holds, but they certainly have been a big help to my research.