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Someone’s wrong on the internet!

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I’m coming to the end of my enforced absence from work ( fingers crossed) and I’m about to be assessed by a doc to see what impact the accident has had. So, I’m trying to get back into "work mode". I need to get fitter and, (obviously) be able to sustain a day in front of the PC or travelling. To this end I have been doing a programme of exercises for my neck and lower back since the accidnet and now have some guidelines as to how I should approach working at a PC ( forever) from my physiotherapist. But sitting around reading books most days hardly represents my working day.

I’ve been popping into LJ and Bookcrossing more frequently in the last couple of weeks, but I’ve decided that a real test would be updating my CPD records and files – they need doing for a review later in the year anyway. However, it’s proving hugely annoying as the online log provided by my professional body is very resistant to typing in free-form data and beseiges me with "helpful hints" of what materials I might like to browse/ read/ sign-up to /pay for  on their site.  CPD records should be simple  – I did this and it contributed X hours to my requirement. It’s particulalrly annoying when I ‘m having to type in free-form entries because they don’t provide the courses I need! Humph!

For entertainment I’m doing some online research of my family tree. I’bve been doing this on and off ( mainly off) for about 5 years.  Online resources have grown enormously in that time, but as all the guides tell you, you do need to check the accuracy of the information you’ve got.  Last October I spent two happy days looking at microfiches of primary parish records in the extremely friendly office that houses the Tyne and Wear Archives Service and the day before my accident I was excitedly running around a muddy cemetery photographing my ancestors’ gravestones. That’s out of the question for a while so I’ve been looking at Ancestry.co.uk.

The updated site’s USP is that if you start to create a family tree online it will trawl through the data and give you "hints" based on best matches. It’s an extremely powerful tool and is certainly so much faster than ploughing through census returns yourself. The original image is laid out for you to check. So far, so good.

As well as looking at official info the ‘bots also look at family trees that have already been created on their website. As there have been free 14 day and 30 day trials of the site on offer this year and last there are probably quite a few trees on there. I  discovered that there were two trees including relatives of mine. They both stemmed from the same "branch" – my maternal great grandparents -so I was delighted to see them and hoping for some gaps to be filled in. Wrong, wrong, wrong! It looks like my fellow researchers have accepted all the info offered by the ‘bots without any critical analysis.

I particularly wanted to get more info from one of them; he is my mother’s generation and might have some photographs and personal memories to share. So, do I get in touch and not tell him that he’s picked up the wrong ancestor in trying to find a father for his illegitimate grandfather?

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The decline of industry or a positive step?

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The news today announced the closure of the Tower Colliery, the last deep mine in  Wales.  It had been closed in 1994, but the miners used their redundancy money to buy the pit, convinced there was sufficient coal to make it worthwhile. In the first year of workers’ ownership turnover was £30m. Now, 13 years later it truly is worked out.

Part of me is sad to see the continued decline of major industry in the UK; there are now only 7 deep mines left in England. Another part of me is glad that few men continue to work in such a dangerous industry and that boys will not grow up with a future limited to following their fathers down the pit. 

I could be melodramatic and say that “coal is in my blood” , actually it’s under my skin. I have a couple of blue scars on my knees from falling over as a child on paths made from the spoil from the local pit. The village, like many in County Durham, only existed because of the mine, but the mine closed before I was two years old and we played on spoil heaps gradually being overgrown by nature.

Five generations of my family worked in the coalfields of Northern England; my brother, my father and his two brothers, my grandfather, my great grandfather and his brothers and my great great grandfather. My great grandmother considered herself well off with a husband and four sons bringing in  miners’ wages as the 19th century turned into the 20th. 

It was and remains a dangerous job, despite the mechanisation. I was shocked to hear that a friend’s Dad had lost a leg in a roof-fall in a mine in the North-east of England as late as 1983. My family seem to have got off lightly from mining; no serious injuries, no deaths down the pit, although lung disease from the dust  probably shortened a few lives. Nevertheless my Dad always said he never wanted his son to go down the pit, having got out himself after 15 years or so. My brother ended up as an electrician underground, was made redundant after the disastrous miners’ strike of 1984-85, and now has a “clean” job in the motor industry.

Although some of the miners from the Tower Colliery are going on to jobs in local drift and opencast mines the future of their children is dependent  on the development of the old mine land. Let’s hope that it provides proper jobs not Mac-jobs.

Update: Thanks to 

[info]miketroll   

for reminding me of George Orwell’s essay on mining. I only knew the piece from “The Road to Wigan Pier” but it was published prior to 1937 as an essay, “Down the Mine”, which can be found here on an excellent website dedicated to Orwell.