Monday, 13 April 2015

And now for something different...

I have in my collection a wonderful little book about the area where my family originally came from, Stretford, Lancashire, UK. The book, Old Stretford, Reminiscences of the Past Half-Century by Sir Bosdin Leech was self-published in 1910 just two years before his death in 1912. At only 40 pages it is quite short, but it contains a number of delightful anecdotes about the people, places and customs of Stretford that he remembers from his childhood and I found it really gave me a sense of the area that my family came from - it doesn't hurt that there are several anecdotes about my ancestors and relatives! To read contemporary accounts of the life and times of people in my ancestral home, written by someone who personally knew my ancestors (the Leech family were tenants of my great-great-great-great-grandfather) adds a whole other chapter to my family history.

A quick calculation shows that this book is now well out of copyright, even accounting for the seemingly never-ending series of dubious copyright extensions that Disney and Co keep pushing governments around the world to issue. As such I have decided to transcribe this book and I will post chapters here as I complete them. I am hoping to complete a chapter a week, but make no promises about the regularity of this effort. ;^)


  1. Hi Amos: thank you for going to the work of putting this information on the web. I, too, have family from Stretford and have recently begun finding more and more information on the area. There are some google books compiled by the Chatham society that mention several names of people in the area. Using these documents, I was able to locate the last name of a grandmother that has been missing for many years from our genealogy. It is so great that people are willing to digitize the information they have. It can help bring families together. Thank you.

  2. One other thought about the book, is it possible for you to scan the pages and place them in your blog instead of transcribing them? That would save you a lot of transcribing. Also, do you know if there is a copy available in a library somewhere in the world? I would like to have a copy of the work to add to my collection. I, too, like you have enjoyed reading about the people in the town. It helps me see them as people that had some of the same struggles we still encounter today.

    1. Hi Carol, thanks for your replies!

      I had thought of simply scanning the book and uploading a pdf, but quickly scotched that idea. I could possibly scan the book and use OCR software to transcribe for me, but my experience with OCR in the past hasn't been overly favourable and I'd have to go through the content looking for OCR errors. Instead I wanted to go through the laborious process of transcribing the book manually as I feel that gives me the most value. Not only am I forced to re-read the book (several times) in detail, but the act of typing the content helps me remember what I have just read. But the main reason for wanting a transcription is to create a searchable resource for not only myself, but others who may be researching people mentioned in the book.

      As for the availability of this book, it was very hard for me to track down. A cousin had previously seen excerpts from the book that mentioned our family, but couldn't remember where he got the pages from. I finally found a copy via a second-hand book seller who has an extensive collection of Lancashire-related books. Searching reveals only a half-dozen copies in libraries around the world: Old Stretford: Reminiscences of the past half-century

  3. I have found some British libraries that have the book, a book seller and an American library. Wonderful! I will work on getting to the American library since that is where I currently reside.